It’s been a while since I’ve had a “favourite player”. By favourite, I mean the player who you defend until you’re blue in the face (regardless of their wrong doings), the player you could watch for hours on end, the player you admire and brag about in equal amounts. It seems a pretty childish thing to set apart one player in the team from the rest. Ryan Giggs was probably my last favourite player, before I outgrew such a phrase. “Who’s your favourite player?” we’d ask each other at school, and argue over which player was the best.
Now, I find myself regressing slightly, and have to admit I have returned to my school day ways of proclaiming a player as my favourite. Wayne Rooney. I just bloody love that lad. Yes ok ok, so he’s got a hot temper (which is improving with years), he’s got a foul mouth, and I can see that both these things upset the country (although not a lot is said when England captain John Terry is effin and blindin at the ref), but I can’t help but love him.
In my years as a United fan, arguably the best two players I’ve come across are Eric Cantona and Roy Keane. They both had hot tempers, they both had vision, and they both inspired our team to go out to do great things. When Cantona lead the team out, his team mates wanted to impress him, wanted their football to resemble something close to the level of Cantona’s. When Keane was on the field, he created a strong will and desire to win amongst the players, never settling for second best, whether we were playing the worst or best team in the league. Yes, they’d both lose their head every now and again, unable to control their emotions and actions when someone was having a pop. Does the passion they possessed make a great player? No, but quite possibly that passion has to come hand in hand with great players. Both of them strived for perfection, but in different ways. Cantona wanted to play dazzling football, wanted to score beautiful goals, whilst Keane wanted to get the job done every time he played, wanted 100% commitment in every pass, every tackle, every shot. Their reigns as captains saw their team complete utter dominance over the Premier League, and for all the criticism they have faced, every fan wanted them in their team.
Now, for all the complaining about Rooney there is, we rarely see him swipe out at other players, or intentionally go out to hurt them. He’ll happily stick it to a referee who he doesn’t agree with, but is extremely infrequent that a violent streak comes out in him. Yet the media get on his case, building him up and ripping him down again on what seems to be a fortnightly basis. He’s a thug one week, a genius the next, a lout one match, a saviour the next. Whilst Keane and Cantona saw their behaviour scrutinised more fiercely because they played for Manchester United, Rooney has the added pressure of playing for England.
Whilst Rooney is still only young, I can see parts of both Cantona and Keane in him. He loves to play beautiful and creative football, scoring superb goals for us, and playing the perfect pass to set up others. He has that fighting nature in him, he always wants to play, he always wants to win, and he will run himself ragged to do so. He strives for perfection, in both the skilful play we see on the field, and his desire to win and be the best.
With the ever apparent demise of our current captain, Gary Neville, the discussion of who should be our next captain has been rife amongst United fans. The obvious choice has to be Rio Ferdinand, who takes the armband when Neville and Giggs aren’t playing. I’m not his biggest fan but can acknowledge he makes a good captain. I believe there should be more shouts for Hargreaves and Vidic than there has been. But one player who always comes up in the discussion is Rooney. He’s definitely been lined up, by United fans at least, as the future United captain, and quite rightly too.
Ahead of United’s pointless Champions League clash with Roma on Wednesday, the speculation that Ferguson will field a second string team has been confirmed today. With the dippers game on Sunday, Ferguson wants our team to be fresh, and after confirming top spot already with five wins out of five, there is no need to play our first teamers. The likes of Fletcher, O’Shea, Carrick and Saha, who have had limited time on the field so far this season, will be started, alongside Chris Eagles, Danny Simpson, Gerard Pique and Johnny Evans. It should be a nice evening out for the lads, wracking up another Champions League appearance to their stats, and hopefully a good result for them.
Whilst this team selection was predicted, the inclusion of Rooney wasn’t one we anticipated. Although it could be argued that after recently returning from injury, he could do with more game time under his belt, it would have appeared normal for him to remain in Manchester. However, Rooney hasn’t travelled to Rome as just a United player, he’s gone as the United captain. “He has been pestering me for quite a while now, so I have given in,” said Ferguson.
It is great to see one of our young players so eager to captain our club. Whilst he should have a long career ahead, I can’t imagine Rooney moving on to any other team, which is something he has previously stated, and his determination to get the captain’s armband helps emphasise this. As we sing in retaliation to the opposition, it’s “once a blue, always a Red” in the case of Rooney. I think it will be marvelous practice for him, managing his emotions whilst still finding the passion to drive the team forward. It is a great experience and one I am happy to see Ferguson bestow on him whenever possible.
So just look at Cantona and Keane, two great United captains and leaders, who drove us to victory and success time and again. Then look at Rooney, future United captain, who I hope will have exactly the same effect.
Do you want Rooney as our future captain?
To mark the anniversary of United winning the Treble with a team that had academy products at the core, Made in Manchester is available for just £3 for today only. Some of the best football writers take a player each, from Sir Bobby Charlton to Ryan Giggs, George Best to David Beckham, Duncan Edwards to Paul Scholes, and many more, with 30 articles in total. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.