“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 who 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.
If 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?
Made in Manchester is available for just £5. It includes 30 articles from the country's best football writers about graduates from the Manchester United academy. Everyone who buys a copy enters a competition to win the new home shirt. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.