Rooney’s failure of leadership laid bare at Leicester

September 22, 2014 Tags: , Reads 55 comments
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What stir is this; what tumult’s in the heavens?

Strange times at Manchester United. If the alarm hadn’t already been sounded it surely rings loud now after chaos reigned at the King Power Stadium on Sunday. Tumult and then some with Leicester City, lowly newly promoted Leicester at that, inflicting United’s third defeat of what increasingly looks like a long season to come. Stir? Louis van Gaal was enraged.

There was no little incredulity at Old Trafford as the east midlanders smashed five past Van Gaal’s expensively assembled team. With the defeat comes disbelief, but not really that one of the league’s lesser teams secured victory. This has happen too often for surprise. Nor even that United shipped so many, with a defence broken asunder in recent times. But more specifically that the Reds should be so utterly bereft of leadership when it was needed most.

This, after all, is the club of Duncan Edwards, Bryan Robson, Steve Bruce and Roy Keane. Leaders all. Of different types too: those natural in command, and others who set the tone to follow. United is seemingly lacking both.

On Sunday, when Van Gaal so desperately needed his senior players to offer an example, to organise, to translate training pitch strategy into match day execution, none came forward. More broadly, when a leader of the intelligent, progressive kind is so badly required at Old Trafford nobody has emerged from the class of 2014.

In both respects United should be served by club captain Wayne Rooney. The talisman on-the-pitch; the marketing symbol off it. The man awarded the club captaincy by Van Gaal, a huge new contract by the executive, and proffered “special privileges” all in the same arc.

Yet, on Saturday, United’s leader became the captain to demand his crew paddles faster as the bow sinks below the waves. In one notable incident Rooney screamed at his team-mates, the callow Tyler Blackett included, moments after the Scouser gifted Leicester possession and with it a third goal. This is rotten leadership fast sinking into the class of Dickens scoundrel.

On the pitch Rooney completed 81 per cent of his passes; fewer still in the final third – this from the man who, at number 10, was deployed by Van Gaal as United’s creative fulcrum. At least the captain was at least partly contrite in admitting that “we should have kept the ball better.”

Prone to the Hollywood ball, Rooney failed with each of his long forward passes and, in attacking zones, Rooney managed just one shot – off target, of course. True, Rooney completed an assist for Angel Di Maria’s goal, but the pass was so underweighted that the Argentinian was forced into a sublime finish simply to complete United’s move.

Defensively Rooney made two tackles, but no blocks, interceptions or clearances. It was a performance of, sadly, common mediocrity and very little intelligence.

This is a strange kind of leadership – one his team-mates seem reluctant to follow. Then, on current evidence, Rooney might not convince his shadow to follow him into the sunset. This from the man who has twice sought refuge in the arms of United’s bitterest rivals; once more into the breach dear friends – ‘unless a better offer comes my way’.

Rooney wasn’t the only failure on Saturday, although the captain’s rotten form is the antithesis of inspiration. At the back Rafael da Silva and Marcos Rojo were repeatedly caught out of position, while Jonny Evans and his replacement Chris Smalling enjoyed error-ridden afternoons. Even Blackett, who had looked composed for an hour, suffered in the chaos of United’s defensive disintegration.

There should be little surprise in United’s defensive malaise. Where the club lost more than 1200 appearances of experience in Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidić and Patrice Evra, the trio was replaced with two, expensive, and adolescent left-backs: Rojo and Luke Shaw.

Meanwhile, Smalling, Evans and the Phil Jones were groomed to be the next generation of great United central defenders. Perpetual injury has dogged each, to say little of the technical limitations now inherent. None of this, however, is a surprise and United’s failure to acquire an experienced central defender in the summer appears more like negligence with each passing game.

In midfield Di Maria’s brilliance was not matched by Ander Herrera or Daley Blind, who were too often over-run by Leicester’s all-action engine room. Rooney did little to halt the flow in his deeper role, nor Juan Mata the second half substitute thrust into an unfamiliar position in central midfield.

With it Van Gaal had little choice but to react furiously after a performance as inept as any last season.

“You never expect that when you’re 3-1 ahead and you are two goals ahead for the second time,” said the Dutchman.

“You have to kill the game and keep possession but we could not do that. We gave it away with penalties, and you cannot win a game when you do that. I think we created a lot of chances and we made superb goals. But a game lasts 90 minutes and you have to do that for 90 minutes, not 60 minutes.”

Rooney echoed his manager in declaring the performance not “good enough as a team.” He could say little else except, perhaps, to include greater self-analysis in the critique.

The seemingly untouchable Scouser is set to continue in the United side even if there is little clear evidence he is the best player in any position. Special privileges indeed. Although the former Evertonian may no longer be first choice striker, with Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao starting on Sunday.

“I was not so satisfied with Rooney as a striker,” Van Gaal said. “That is why I changed. Rooney can play in more positions, he’s a multi-functional player and I have tried him in a striker’s position. He has played well, but not spectacular. Falcao is a striker and I think he can do it better.”

Whether Rooney deserves the role at ‘number 10’ is moot, although Mata’s greater use of the ball, outstanding control and understanding of tempo are surely more important qualities in the position. Or, to put that another way, a player of Rooney’s profligacy in possession, leaden first touch and dependency on overhit passes might not normally be considered a team’s principle creator.

Wedded to Rooney in one way or another Van Gaal remains – a political decision that may yet come to haunt the Dutchman. It certainly did little good on Saturday. Leadership this was not as chaos broke forth.


Tam wilcox - September 22, 2014 Reply

unbelievable how you blame for that! Wow

SoccerLimey - September 22, 2014 Reply

You raise some good points but to lay blame at Rooney’s feet for this is nonsense

Neil Mack - September 22, 2014 Reply

Rooney is captain by default. It shows how poor investment has been in the last 5 yrs. We’ve not replaced two captains.

Daniel Christensen - September 22, 2014 Reply

Thanks been waiting to hear what you guys have to say! Looking forward to listening to it now before bed 🙂

Chris O'Dea - September 22, 2014 Reply

Get off his back you cunts, gives 100% in every game! Evra was worse as captain! Rooney’s energy leads others and he’s vocal !

shadley35 - September 23, 2014 Reply

Yep. gives 100% transfer requests every 3/4 years one of which was to the berties

Andykong - September 23, 2014 Reply

Giving 100% and achieving something with it are two different things. He gives 100% to himself, not to the team. I’ve lost count how many times hes delayed a pass to a teammate in a good attacking position only to smash the ball into the defenders legs.
I was hoping he’d be sent off at Leicester so we can see a TEAM without him.

redders - September 22, 2014 Reply

not all rooneys fault schoolboy defending is not his fault1 goal mayb but the whole performance,If it stayed 3-1 still his fault

Reece Timmins - September 22, 2014 Reply

Learning process for wayne! I don’t think there any other contenders for captaincy though..

Eamonn Walsh - September 22, 2014 Reply

only now once the Donegal defeat begins to sink can one absorb what was a truly humiliating mess we saw against Leicester

Foxy Lady - September 22, 2014 Reply

great piece as usual

lcfc - September 22, 2014 Reply

“lowly newly promoted Leicester”. Last I checked we were above united. It won’t be the case at the end of the season, granted, but at the moment “lowly” leicester are above united who, incidentally, are falling from grace in much the same way as a once great Liverpool team.

Jerome - September 23, 2014 Reply

Calm down, if you knew anything about this website or the material it produces you’d understand it’s probably the most reasoned out there. But no, you stumbled across it from a news aggregator and burst into tears almost immediately.

lcfc - September 23, 2014 Reply

For the record, I enjoyed this article, just didn’t want to miss the chance to stick the boot in a little further. We’re a relatively small club that have just beat and, at the moment, are above the most successful premier league team in recent times. There’s no tears coming from any leicester fans, let me assure you of that.

If you value an outsiders view, I feel this criticism of Rooney is a misnomer. I agree with nearly every point mader in this article, and I certainly don’t feel Rooney has the necessary attributes to make a successul captain but, from the outside looking in, the blame for your demise lies with the your recruitment policy over recent years.

unitedrant - September 23, 2014 Reply

I fear that you miss the self-referential nature of this article

Denys - September 22, 2014 Reply

Great article, Ed.

The devil’s in the details. Loved how cameraman showed the footage of Rooney screaming at defenders right after he misplaced a long cross (again). Leading by an example, eh? “Who’d want to be men of the people, when there’s people like you?”

Maybe I’m just naive, but I still think we should have sold him a few years ago. It’s just embarrassing now.

Ighodaro Martins - September 23, 2014 Reply

Very poor article. Biased and hateful. Rooney deserves better. Gutter article!

Paul M - September 23, 2014 Reply

Care to expand?

Jrain - September 23, 2014 Reply

Why does Rooney deserve better?

The only reason Rooney wasn’t sold years ago was because Man Utd had no English talisman to sell jerseys and commercials for United. He lacks the calmness of a good leader, has lost his touch in even open positions, and tries too often to hit a 40 yard cross field pass, to what effect? Rooney is still one of Man United’s best players, but he has no speed any more. Rooney as captain of United is like putting the bully at school in charge of the leadership committee, he will get things done, but no one will love or follow him.

I would drop him to the bench play him as a sub and the team would be better, we will definitely ask to leave, but does our future really rest in a rapidly aging forward? We need to build for the future because we don’t have the team now to win.

Alec Sverguson - September 23, 2014 Reply

I hope we never sell Rooney, only because if/when we do… what the fuck will you two have to rant about? The Glazers?

shadley35 - September 23, 2014 Reply

You’re right . Rooney is brilliant and the glazers are just great. f&cking idiot.

Alec Sverguson - September 23, 2014 Reply

Did I say they were great? Or was I purely alluding to the fact that on the podcast they admittedly slag Rooney off all the time and on this last one just said there’s not much to talk about with only one match a week? And I’m the fucking idiot…

unitedrant - September 23, 2014 Reply

I do wonder why some bother reading. Mind you it gives me pleasure that criticism of Rooney irritates.

Alec Sverguson - September 23, 2014

Well I also take a tremendous amount of pleasure that a little joke can cause such an irritation. So cheers to our irritating pleasures.

Alec Sverguson - September 23, 2014 Reply

A serious note, though, I don’t necessarily think Rooney is the ideal captain, but to be fair, if you don’t give Rooney the captaincy – look at our starting 11 against Leicester, even include the subs if you like and tell me who you would have given it to? De Gea? Evans? One of the new lads? I don’t fucking think so. Granted Rooney doesn’t set the best example but who right now as a regular in the team does? Fletch is vice-captain but as long as Herrera and Blind are fit they’ll play ahead of him every single match. I don’t think it’s Rooney’s fault that he’s the only option right now, nor is it his fault how shocking the defense was. Even if Rooney had connected all of his passes and been a legend, do you honestly think that would have prevented our defense from playing like numpties, or prevented Rafael from giving away a suspect penalty, preventing Evans from being hurt and/or prevented Blackett from getting a red? Again, I don’t fucking think so…

Yugal - September 23, 2014 Reply

Exactly my thoughts! He has awful first touch, slows the move while we counter-attack & isn’t that prolific while in possession. Tries too many long diagonal balls (Like his mate Stevie G) few reach its target & everyone foucs on 4 out of 10 attempted long balls, completely ignoring the 6 that he misses. And that picture on DM article of him screaming at everyone moments after losing possession outside the box. Real leadership that, screaming at 20yr old leftback playing in central defence with god-awful partners.
Can’t wait for him to score a tap-in against West Ham & he’ll be the new Robbo again!

Ighodaro Martins - September 23, 2014 Reply

Another hater. DiMaria clearly slowed and fluffed a perfect counter attack during the Leicester game. But yea, Rooney must always be at fault. Tap ins??? Come back to earth mate!

Yugal - September 24, 2014 Reply

Its not about just Leicester game though mate. He slows our counter attack (So does RvP) tries too many fancy stuffs when there are better options available.
I just don’t see him as a leader but I hope he can prove me wrong.

Chris - September 23, 2014 Reply

Its clear the from the article and from previous ones that the author has a very negative view of Rooney. Perhaps we could have a article on why RVP been sulking for 18 months and had performances that clearly reflect this. Just based on the article maybe on who won the ball and started the move before said persons so called under hit pass or maybe how Mata who never loses the ball, clearly did just that when no one was behind him that cost us a goal. Rooney was creative on Sunday, what about the ball through to Faulco before he smashed the bar? Ball through when RVP was just offside? Or more interestingly why saviour Kagawa attracted all of 5 million when we sold him? Get off Rooneys back, he is the least of our problems, the attack was actually very good for 60 mins you should have writ an article on the defence or lack of protection for it that’s our real problem!

Paul M - September 23, 2014 Reply

I think part of Rant’s issue with Rooney is that he’s twice held the club to ransom, and doesn’t do enough to warrant the captaincy nor the ridiculous pay packet.

RVP? We’re talking about Rooney.

skw - September 24, 2014 Reply

Paul, everyone gets this — and most agree with most of it.

However, I think it’s undeniable that Rooney has shown far more commitment to Utd. than RVP has, which I think is what Chris alluded to.

Whatever tactics Rooney pulled in negotiations, he has never not given his all on the pitch — before and after — and his dedication to the club is a damn sight better than most professionals these days.

To return to Chris’s remarks, Rooney pushed hard at the most important part of last season, RVP did nothing, feigned injuries and whenever he played looked as if he couldn’t be bothered. And while he is clearly trying under VG, RVP’s performances have stunk. I’d drop him. We looked better with Mata at 10 anyway. Put Rooney and Falcao up front.

And yes, I know and we all know that it’s not an article about RVP, but I just feel like RVP is in this conversation if we’re to have it because you can’t talk about a leaky faucet and ignore condition of the sink.

unitedrant - September 23, 2014 Reply

This article isn’t about RVP. Maybe you missed that bit?

Chris - September 23, 2014 Reply

I was asking why lay into Rooney all the time while RVP on similar wages does nothing, shows little to no effort and hasn’t since Ferguson left. So no I didn’t miss that. We have have bigger problems than Rooney.

unitedrant - September 23, 2014 Reply

Might as well ask why the moon is made of cheese – about as relevant to the debate about Rooney’s leadership

Patrick Campbell - September 23, 2014 Reply

Great article. Couldn’t have put it any better myself

Brian Lyttle - September 23, 2014 Reply

that sums it up nicely

Rodgers Rocks - September 23, 2014 Reply

i to thnk so in the 1st place he was nt sprse to be captain

Dave Prendo - September 23, 2014 Reply

The Captains of the past, lead from the middle, Roo is not cut out for the Job sorry to say.

Alex Bondén - September 23, 2014 Reply

Good read. I’ve been neg re Roon for a long time now and that cos he’s so unprofessional and cos of his behaviour in his 2 last contract negotations.

I think Roon is a has been and hes already peeked. If Id be in charge I’d get rid of him asap cos we can still get a decent fee for him.

Im 110% behind LvG but imo he made a big misstake when he gave Rooney the captancy

Mike - September 23, 2014 Reply

We need a leader and quickly. Rooney should have known to get everyone to close the game at 3-1. Instead he didn’t instill the necessary sense of composure and maturity, two traits that he is (surprisingly) expected to provide. Looking back at it, VanGaal should have taken him off and brought Fletcher on, to cool things down all round. It’s a lesson learned.

Sidney Ruff-Diamond - September 23, 2014 Reply

I think the author’s perspective has been too coloured by his personal hostility to Rooney to consider other factors behind the result; factors that have less to do with Rooney and more to do with the other players around him and the opposition.

The author highlights several of them himself – Rojo and Rafael being constantly out of position, Blind and Herrera being overrun. Rooney cannot teach our full-backs how to defend properly. He does not set up the team tactics.

Further, he cannot control the fact that Nigel Pearson obviously saw against QPR that Blind was the distributor from the back; hence he detailed Nugent to man-mark Blind from the front, emaning our less technical defenders either has to carry the ball higher or play a long ball which, as we know from previous matches, doesn’t work. Again, Rooney as captain can’t fix that – it has to come from the management.

This is not to defend Rooney’s performance, which was as abject as everyone else’s (barring Di Maria and Falcao), and I agree that Mata has to be in the #10 position. But the author appears to be blaming Rooney’s lack of leadership for everything. That is to completely over-egg things. Throwing Rooney out the team (which LVG has done with previous captains of his, don’t forget) will not solve our problems and, as others BTL have said, who else has the authority in the side to be captain? It also highlights the problem of making a forward captain when the major problems are all out of his sphere of influence on the pitch.

Also, on a point of pedantry, Rojo isn’t an ‘adolescent’.

unitedrant - September 23, 2014 Reply

Sidney – bit odd that you say “the author’s perspective has been too coloured by his personal hostility to Rooney to properly weigh the other factors behind the result” and then go on to admit that I do go on an highlight them. So which is it? Do I or do I not point to other factors. Do you need some help deciding. Phone a friend perhaps?

In any case this is a piece about Rooney’s leadership. Or lack of it beyond wildly screaming at his colleagues. It’s far less about any hostility and far more about Rooney’s suitability for the job.

To correct your point of pedantry, since your command of the English language is sadly limited, the noun adolescent in this context relates to the characteristic of adolesence – an adjective. Or immaturity. It doesn’t mean, as I’m presuming you incorrectly think, an age range.

Sidney Ruff-Diamond - September 23, 2014 Reply

It’s not odd in the slightest. As I stated, you do highlight other factors but my opinion is that your personal hostility towards Rooney means that in assessing our problems last weekend you give too much weight to Rooney’s supposed failings as a leader (and I agree that he isn’t of the standard of the other names you mention – but then who in the side is?) and not enough to the other factors you raise.

Also the fact you raise other factors means this piece isn’t solely about Rooney’s leadership. It becomes about the lack of recruitment at centre-half ( a point I agree with and a far bigger factor in our defensive problems than Rooney, again in my opinion). It also becomes about basic errors in defence by Rojo and Rafael (again, in my opinion, a bigger factor in last Sunday’s defeat than Rooney’s supposed lack of leadership).

Reading your response to my original post and to others here who disagree with your analysis, you appear to get quite touchy with those who don’t agree with you? Why is this? Are people not allowed to express an alternate view to yours without getting snide comments? If that’s the case then I humbly suggest you stop putting your writing on a public forum where it can be commented on by others if it upsets you so much.

subterranean steve - September 23, 2014 Reply

Touchy indeed.

Looks who’s the pot calling the kettle black.

unitedrant - September 23, 2014 Reply

Oh ha. What a childish and rather pointless attempt at a wind up. Why are you so touchy about me offering an “opinion” to the contrary? Have I no right to a retort? Yours must be the last word. No, Sidney, I’m not touchy about your opinion at all, I think that your attempt to side track the debate is risible and your ‘insight’ into my apparent hostility worth little more than derision.

Sidney Ruff-Diamond - September 24, 2014

I am perfectly relaxed about this debate and I am happy that, unlike other writers, you appear happy to debate BTL. I just point out that twice in your initial retort you suggest that because I disagree with main thrust of your article that must mean I am thick, e.g.:

“Do you need some help deciding. Phone a friend perhaps?” and “…since your command of the English language is sadly limited…”

Two snide remarks purely based on the fact I disagree with you rather than engage with what I said.

So perhaps you’d like to respond as to how you believe Rooney being a poor captain is a bigger factor in our current problems than Rafael and Rojo beuing constantly out of position last weekend and how Rooney, as captain, is meant to remedy this?

Perhaps you’d also like to explain how Rooney being a poor captain is more important a factor in explaining our current problems than a lack of adequate recruitment at centre-half?

All issues you raised in an article you state is all about Rooney being a poor captain. My difference of opinion is about the weight you appear to give all these factors. I believe having poor performances from full-backs and no top-class centre half is more important than Rooney’s performance as captain. You appear to believe otherwise, which is no problem at all with me as I was keen to find out more. All I offered was my own opinion and invited you to explain further as your article seems to fixate on his alleged wages and his one / two transfer requests (depending on whether the second one was actually a request). I happen to believe that these factors are irrelevant.

United Rant - September 24, 2014

“your article seems to fixate on his alleged wages and his one / two transfer requests”

Well if fixation is one mention of a new contract and one of the two attempts to leave United – a total of two sentences in a 1200 article.

I don’t see why I should divert the debate because you demand it though. There are clearly multiple issues at United. Do I need cover every single one in this article to satisfy you? The one I chose to write about is Rooney’s leadership – a role that I have argued he is both historically and demonstrably not fit to take. We can talk about this is you want. Otherwise it’s probably better for you to start a thread in the forum about Rafael and Rojo if that’s what you want to talk about.

United Rant - September 24, 2014

Oh and on the point about English… yes you thought you were being clever by correcting me. You were wrong. Happy to discuss points of language if you like…

Romario - September 23, 2014 Reply

It’s an observation, quite very few times have seen you speak something positive about Wayne Rooney. Yes, he gifted possession for the third goal, but ofcourse it can be understood that he was clearing out danger and he was unfortunate in that. But why can’t you rant bout van Persie, who has been awful lot for the past 18 months? Haven’t heard you mention Mata, whom you say he is a better no.10 than Wazza, who gifted possession for the fifth goal?? Would I be fair to say you hate Rooney? Though sounds harsh?

unitedrant - September 23, 2014 Reply

I do not rant about Mata or RVP because this is an article about Rooney. Simple really.

Subterranean Steve - September 23, 2014 Reply

Rooney’s leadership skills only extended to ‘leadership by example’ when he was at his peak as a footballer. As United’s best player and talisman striker he was a positive influence on the team. However that was more than two years ago.

As a leader of men in 2014 he is sadly lacking and the ‘special privileges’ and ‘first name on the team sheet’ is a footballing albatross of Moyesian proportions.

subterranean steve - September 23, 2014 Reply

Rooney’s leadership skills only extended to ‘leadership by example’ when he was at his peak as a footballer. As United’s best player and talisman striker he was a positive influence on the team. However that was more than two years ago.

As a leader of men in 2014 he is sadly lacking and the ‘special privileges’ and ‘first name on the team sheet’ is a footballing albatross of Moyesian proportions.

Remington Moses - September 23, 2014 Reply

So Ed, do you like Rooney or not?

United Rant - September 24, 2014 Reply

Absolutely. I don’t think Rooney being captain is the cause of all United’s problems. Pretty sure I don’t say that. But I do think he has failed as a leader… it was inevitable.

Paul M - September 25, 2014 Reply

I actually thought we looked better with Rooney up front, and Mata & Kagawa behind.

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