Manchester United have had some fantastic leaders in the past. One could go back to Johnny Carey and Roger Byrne in the 40s and 50s to Bryan Robson in the 80s to Roy Keane and Gary Neville under Sir Alex up until the hard-tackling Serb, Nemanja Vidic, the club has been spoilt with an array of born leaders and winners, men that led the team by example demonstrating consistency on the pitch while ensuring the togetherness off it. Nemanja Vidic has been leading the team from 2011, guiding the club to two Premiership titles and with him now gone – the club and the new manager Louis Van Gaal face an onerous and important task of selecting a new leader, a talisman to inspire the team on and off the pitch.
The two obvious candidates to inherit the armband are Wayne Rooney and Dutchman Robin Van Persie. Louis Van Gaal has his own views regarding captaincy and he has strongly hinted about who could be given the armband going to the 204/15 season. He said:
“Always, you make a player captain when you have more or less the same philosophy, not only about football tactics but also about life. So I think that’s very important. I believe that Van Persie and Van Gaal [have] the same philosophy. I think you always make a player captain when you have the same morals and philosophy as they do. Not only about football and tactics and what is happening on the pitch but about life as well. We click and I think that’s very important.”
That sounds a pretty strong statement and if the manager believes Van Persie and himself share the same philosophy and add to that a good relationship, it’s a no-brainer really. A leader would have to command respect and not demand it. Robin Van Persie literally carried Manchester United on his shoulders and dragged them across the finish line on several occasions two seasons back – under Sir Alex. He scored 26 goals that season, scored against every top side in the league and decided the outcome in many of those crunch ties. He’s already a fan favourite and quite an experienced leader as well – having captained Arsenal in his last couple of years with them, and has been leading his national team in Brazil. He shares a very good relationship with the current manager, something that was almost non-existent under ex-manager David Moyes and he is the kind of a player that thrives on being given the responsibility.
When Wayne Rooney was convinced to stay at United and not join Chelsea, he was offered a contract extension that would ensure he spent most, if not all, of the remaining years of his career at Old Trafford. Having been David Moyes’ favourite, it was assumed that Rooney had been offered the captaincy for the start of the 2014-2015 season too. Vidic would be gone and Moyes had chosen Rooney as his captain on a number of occasions.
Whilst there is no denying that Rooney has had several productive seasons for United, year after year, there were plenty of reds who were not keen on him replacing Vidic as captain. In the space of three years, he’s held the club to ransom over a new deal twice, with him keen to join rivals Manchester City and Chelsea – something that does little to no justice to him being awarded the captaincy, to the average fan. And now, the appointment of Louis van Gaal has thrown a spanner in the works for Rooney. However, Rooney has reiterated his desire to be named captain next season, whilst acknowledging that Van Persie is a sound candidate:
“I am interested in the captaincy. I’ve captained United a few times and to get it on a full-time basis would be great. I feel I am ready for (the captaincy), but it’s the manager’s decision. If he chooses someone else, then honestly I’ve got no problems with that. I will respect his decision. Robin is captain of his country, he has captained Arsenal and if Robin gets the nod to be captain, then I’m sure he’ll do a great job.”
Louis Van Gaal has already laid the blueprint of how his training sessions would take place in his absence with his assistant Ryan Giggs taking care of the proceedings in Carrington alongside the other newly appointed Dutch staff. The club is set to tour the United States as part of the pre-season preparations and the new manager is expected to join the squad once he returns from a largely successful World Cup campaign in Brazil. One of his first announcements after taking over officially, should be to reveal who would lead his men on the pitch in this new era, and one could only hope the new skipper, is as inspiring as his predecessors were.
Who will be given the armband? And who should? Have your say below.