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Is Rio’s England Captaincy A Good Thing For United?

United England banner“You can stick your fucking England up your arse” goes the Manchester United fans’ chant. Following years of negative treatment from England fans and the FA directed at our club, players and fans, many of the most devout United fans are proud of their anti-England stance. The sense of being Mancunian is much stronger than the feeling of being English, and the Argentinian and Portuguese flags seen around Old Trafford in honour of our players is testament of this.

I followed England as a lad, before becoming disillusioned with the team, but have never been able to cheer on players for England who I hated on a domestic level. Wherever possible, I try to shy away from fickle behaviour, which instantly rules me out of ever being a proper England fan, as its their fickleness which defines them. I didn’t boo Alan Shearer whenever he came to Old Trafford, only to sing his name when he pulled on the England jersey. I sung heartily the “did you cheer when Beckham scored?” chant to away fans, following his injury time freekick against Greece to put England in the World Cup finals. The England fans jumping and cheering, hailing him a hero, were the same fans who burned effigies of him around pubs in London following the World Cup 98.

Chants of “stand up if you hate Man U” were a regular occurrence inside the old Wembley Stadium, despite several United players representing England on the pitch below. However, when Paul Scholes scored all three goals in England’s Euro 2000 qualification in their 3-1 win against Poland, the fans inside Wembley Stadium were joyous. When Pele named Nicky Butt the ‘player of the tournament’ in the 2002 World Cup, the England fans were more than happy to take on the praise. David Beckham is an England legend, set to pick up his 100th cap for the country on Wednesday, after spending six years as England captain. England fans seemingly have no guilt about how he was vilified in 1998 though. Fickle, fickle, fickle.

The culture and support of England fans is something I find quite disgusting. Always looking for a scapegoat (it’s funny how Cristiano Ronaldo got the blame for England’s latest World Cup exit, despite Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard, as well as Chelsea’s Frank Lampard missing their penalties) to excuse their sorry, gutless performances, never able to take responsibility for their own shortcomings.

England players are paid to represent their country, and despite bragging one of the best first XIs in the World on paper, can’t qualify for the European Championships, after failing to beat the likes of Macedonia and Israel. United fans breathed a sign of relief after England lost to Croatia at home, needing just a draw to qualify, without a single United player in the squad, the first time in years. Who could they blame now?

The hilarity of England was at its worst following that failure to quality, with the majority of players who fight for their club unwilling to show the same passion and commitment for their country. I can only imagine what the Argentinian and Irish teams think of England’s wasters. Whilst Rooney’s form for country has yet to match the standards he’s set himself at club level, he is certainly one of the few players whose commitment and passion cannot be doubted. The same can arguably be said of Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole, Michael Owen (but to be fair, considering he shows no passion for Newcastle, it’s not harder to look more interested when playing for England!), Owen Hargreaves and David Beckham, to varying degrees.

John Terry was named captain by Steve McClaren, who like most people whoJohn Terry Mike Riley leave Old Trafford, has never gone on to match the great highs he achieved with United, but the poor example he has set as Chelsea captain over the past 18 months has made his future as England captain become doubtful. We all remember the footage of Roy Keane and co. chasing down referee Andy D’urso and the criticism of this has been fairly regular since that day in January 2000. But these scenes are a frequent occurrence at Chelsea, often lead, but certainly never halted, by Captain Terry. They have been charged by the FA an incredible six times in the past two years, showing the lack of discipline under Terry’s leadership.

With the recent incident against Tottenham Hotspur, when Ashley Cole reacted dreadfully to the decision of being booked (when in reality, he was lucky not to have been sent off), with Terry, Drogba and Carvalho joining in with the abuse of referee Mike Riley, new England boss, Fabio Capello, had obviously seen enough.

Today, Rio Ferdinand has been appointed captain of England for their game against France on Wednesday. “Fabio Capello has confirmed that Rio Ferdinand will captain England against France in Paris,” said an FA statement. “Capello has confirmed this continues his policy of rotating the captaincy between players in the friendly matches before confirming a permanent captain for the World Cup qualifying games.”

I’ve never been Rio Ferdinand’s biggest fan, but I think this season he has been immense for United. He rarely puts a foot wrong and has commanded our back four brilliantly well. I was massively relieved to see his name in our starting line up against Liverpool, knowing he was more than capable of dealing with one of the form players of the moment, Fernando Torres. For me, this is his best season as a United player, and despite my protests of years gone by, I will stick with my recent assertion that he should be Gary Neville’s replacement of captain.

He is one of the few players who has played consistently well for England over the past year or so, and with Capello seeing more than enough of Rio at his best in his frequent trips to Old Trafford, it would seem likely for Ferdinand to take over the England captaincy on a permanent basis.

Rio Ferdinand badgeIf Rio is to become England captain, how could this benefit United?

Following the slights on Ferdinand’s character after missing a drug’s test for United, the prestige that comes with being England captain might be the final stage in rehabilitating Ferdinand’s status.

Ferdinand loves playing for England and the confidence and satisfaction that would come with playing as the captain role for his country should only have positive knock on effects for United.

To be a good captain, you need to have certain qualities to your game and personality, which I think Ferdinand more or less already has. To be a great captain, you need to have experience on top of this. Again, the experience he would get from captaining his national side should only bring more to his presence as United’s captain. Congratulations Rio!

Do you want to see Ferdinand given the England captaincy permanently?

About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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  1. Red Ranter says:

    Yes and no. Yes because he deserves it. No because of the abuse he’s certain to get — albeit unfairly — if England slip up, due to the shortcomings of other players.

  2. Jak says:

    Scott, I consider myself a devout follower of United, but also a devout follower of England (and I’m Canadian!). The two are not mutually exclusive. Please don’t imply that to be an England supporter means that one is not a true United follower. Sorry, that is rubbish. Anyway, to the question at hand, Rio will make an excellent captain, and United and England will benefit mutually.

  3. Jas Rai says:

    Jak…..How can you be a supporter of a team who has Gerrard, Lampard, Ashley fuckin Cole etc and still be a proper United supporter?? You’d cheer Cole for England then boo him when we play Chelsea?

  4. Sid P says:

    Isn’t it possible to support Engerland but only UNITED players who play for England? While I certainly wouldn’t boo Terry when he plays for England, I wouldn’t cheer him either.

    I see the issue that United fans have with cheering someone like Cashley Cole (something no self respecting human being should do)…but there are other players who I wouldn’t boo, even if they play for the opposition. Joe Cole, Lescott, some of the other/lesser known players.

    So I guess the question is how do you reconcile your feelings for seeing players like Rooney, Carrick and Rio doing well for England ?

  5. Jak says:

    That’s like asking how our players, like Rooney and Rio, can play on the same team as Joe Cole when they are playing for England. It’s two separate spheres. They put their feelings aside to play for the good of England at that moment in time. It doesn’t mean that next week they won’t be trying to shut Joe down. And I don’t just support England players who are from United. I hate Gerrard when he’s wearing a Liverpool shirt, but if he scores for England, I will cheer. I don’t see a contradiction in that. If footballers felt that contradiction, we’d have no international football. Which I guess would be fine for some fans, but not for me.

  6. Jas Rai says:

    I can see your poit of view, i guess its just a case of each to their own in this debate, but for me i’ll still have my Argentina or Portugal shirt on for the next away game.

  7. Jak says:

    I also should add that I come from a country (Canada) that has a long tradition in hockey of supporting our national team fanatically, regardless of our league rivalries (which are also fierce). I don’t know any Canadian hockey fan who isn’t proud when a member of their city team is called to the national squad. And our whole country stops when we play an international match. So, I suppose I carry that same attitude to my love of football.

  8. Tom F says:

    I have always backed United players when they are given the chance to perform for England, the same will apply for th appointment of Rio as captain in the friendly against France.

    However, I am English but the only thing that makes me interested in England as a national side is the inclusion of United players.

    I do not give a shit how England under 21′s perform, but as a follower of the likes of Frazier Campbell, I show interest. When I see Rio and Rooney are playing for England I eatch the game to see how THEY perform. I laugh when England lose in major Cup competitions as it’s all I’ve witnessed. On;y those around in ’66 will beg to differ,

    saying that. To me, Club comes before any country. week in week out goes before any country based competetion.
    Life is about day in day out battles, not the holidays.

  9. Jas Rai says:

    Tom F i couldn’t agree more…say if a United player was taking a penalty for England i’d want them to score, but if they scored and England lost on the shootout…i’d be pretty satisfied

  10. Ahmed Bilal says:


    Better performer for England than Terry, better captain than Gerrard, more assured of a first-team spot than Beckham or Owen.

    The decision won’t be taken till summer, and hopefully Capello will make the right choice even then.

  11. Danny says:

    I support both United and England, and this doesn’t make me any less of a United fan. I would always choose club over country but the passion I feel about being English is something that will never faulter. For people to say this means I’m ‘not a true united fan’ is absolute bollocks. I would never boo a man in and England shirt because of the club he played for (although i would neither be as foolish as to sing his name). At the end of the day I will never like or respect a lot of these players, but will always want England to succeed. I get as much pleasure out of seeing the likes of Ashley cole get lambasted as the next united fan, but country comes before personal opinion.

  12. mutabuza chrispus says:

    now im confident of grttind support when i vote RIO as PLAYER OF THE SEASON ahead of the Portuguese magician.


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