While the ink is still drying on a post here on The Center Circle about giving Manchester United a bit of patience with their rebuild (and three points will help), a small subplot just seems to keep gaining traction. While the talent level at United is only growing, their newly minted captain seems to be failing to fulfill any semblance of his role. Wayne Rooney is still painted as a player still waiting to fulfill his potential, but this is a 28-year-old (29 next month) man that seems to be on the back end during a time when he should be at the peak of his career. What should United do with Rooney?
Since 2011-12, Wayne Rooney has played a similar amount of games but his goals have been almost sliced in half. He has also gone through several contract bouts with United that all ended after Rooney pouted, played poorly, and (eventually) snagged a huge new contract. However, with his club and with his country, all of this seemed to add up to something that made his managers choose Rooney as their newest captain. While the player had spent a few months seeming like he had outgrown some of his outbursts from earlier in his career, his most recent red card for his kick-out against Stewart Downing shows a player who has no business leading a club onto the field.
The link between the United faithful and Rooney runs deep. Rooney has plied his trade for the club for a decade and has his name creeping ever closer to the top of all of the Red Devil record books. He has scored important goals and been a part of a squad that brought home trophy after trophy after trophy. However, for a team trying to complete an amazing turnaround, the connection has got to be severed. Couple in the massive amount of money going out of the club, and it would not hurt to cash in on Rooney while he still has a rather substantial market value. Now, while it may not end up being the move United makes to send their golden boy packing, he cannot be the man to wear the armband when the team takes the field.
“Sacrilege!” you may say… but United need a steel to the back half of the field, not the attack. Rooney is too quick to anger, too quick to try and do too much, and he is not the answer to their defensive woes. It seems easy to think that placing a captain and a voice of resolve closer to the back four could help bring some steel to United’s creaky defense. While there may be a bit of a shortage figuring out who to replace Rooney and fill a captain’s role, Van Gaal could complete a full regime change by deciding on a new captain. Likewise, Hodgson needs to distance himself from the old regime and their failings. Rooney is definitely not the answer and it seems like he may have provided both managers with an easy exit…they should both take it.