Man Utd Focus - Does Rooney have what it takes to captain United?
Wayne Rooney yesterday marked a decade of top-flight football since his first Premier League goal against Arsenal, but as he heads into what ought to be his peak years, does the Liverpudlian have what it takes to captain Manchester United?
Nemanja Vidic has been suffering from injury for almost a year, whilst Patrice Evra now has competition for a starting role thanks to Alexander Büttner's arrival, so there could be an opening of sorts for Rooney to take advantage of.
The Englishman certainly has the experience, talent and burning desire to win that is required of a skipper at Old Trafford, as he can consider himself one of the senior players in Sir Alex Ferguson's side. He also appears likely to drop a little deeper in the lineup, which can help in respect to influencing his teammates. Rooney does not necessarily even need to be particularly vocal in his encouragement, thanks to the ability he has to produce sublime moments of inspiration with his feet.
A huge obstacle that the Croxteth-born forward faces in any quest to captain United stems from his relationship with the Old Trafford faithful, which was harmed when Rooney handed in a transfer request in September 2010. The exact circumstances of that issue remain unclear however, and the player has since pledged the rest of his career to the club.
When Rooney burst onto the scene as a prodigious 16-year-old, he was often acclaimed as being a boy in a man's body. The same was also implied of his footballing brain, which was referred to as being so well-developed for a player of such tender years. As he has grown up however, he is no longer a boy, and has the pressure of expectancy on his performances that were formerly observed with baited breath.
His performances have been heavily scrutinised ever since an ankle injury in March 2010 that heavily damaged the run-in to United's season, in addition to England's World Cup campaign in South Africa. The injury preceded the transfer request and a period of poor form, any sequence of such is linked to external factors in the life of a player that is under such a bright spotlight.
Also the misdemeanors, such as the red card against Montenegro in a Euro 2012 qualifier that saw him banned for the first two games of this summer's tournament, are less readily accepted, as a maturity is expected of players, and particularly captains, as they move through their careers. However for all the criticism that the striker receives regarding his temperament, and the two high profile dismissals he has received whilst playing for England, Rooney has still only been sent off twice in 371 appearances so far for Manchester United.
This is hardly a damning statistic in respect of his credentials as a potential captain, especially considering two of Old Trafford's most noteworthy recent leaders. Roy Keane was dismissed 13 times whilst playing for United, whilst Eric Cantona averaged a red card every 24 Premier League games for the Reds.
It is approaching 20 years since Cantona signed for United, sparking an upturn in fortune that has invoked sustained success ever since. There are certainly parallels of temperament and controversy, in addition to attributions of footballing genius between Rooney and the Frenchman. Rooney is currently the same age as Cantona was when he found his home with Ferguson at Old Trafford. The player that turns 27 next week will be hoping that the next five years of his career - the duration of time spent by Cantona at United - are as successful as the club's recent history dictates.
Rooney has challenges to overcome in order to win the captain's armband from his manager, but has represented a clear candidate for the job ever since his arrival in Manchester. He has the ability to lead both by word and example, which suggests he has what it takes to be a captain at Old Trafford. Whether he is given the opportunity remains to be seen.
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