After a season of turmoil for Manchester United fans under David Moyes, it could be a that an uncomfortable summer is on the way amid reports that Wayne Rooney would be less than totally enamoured by the arrival of Louis van Gaal as the new manager at Old Trafford.
Despite the dispiriting general performance of the squad, the England talisman had an outstanding season. Along with goalkeeper David de Gea, Rooney was one of the very few players that could look back on the campaign with some pride. Last summer there was febrile speculation of a move away from the club with a number of bids from Jose Mourinho looking likely to end the player’s tenure in the north-west. The arrival of Moyes however seemed to reinvigorate the player, and a new contract was penned, with talk of increased influence for the player and the promise of the captain’s armband when Nemanja Vidic moves on at the season’s close. With Moyes now departed however, it seems that all bets are off.
Reports suggest that there is deep concern in the Rooney camp that van Gaal will favour Dutch striker Robin van Persie over Rooney, both for the main striker role and the captaincy. If such things do happen, it may well plunge United back into a further period of ‘Will he, won’t he’ Rooney transfer speculation, at the very time the club is in urgent need of some stability.
One of Rooney’s main beefs towards the end of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign at Old Trafford was that he was shunted about to play deeper, even in midfield or wide to accommodate van Persie. Whilst the practise brought a title triumph for the club, Rooney’s less than happy demeanour was clear to see.
The captaincy of the club is something that Rooney clearly holds in great esteem. Whilst in real terms, it probably entails little more on-pitch activity than calling heads or tails and choosing ends, the kudos it carries, clearly appeals to him. Van Gaal has already made van Persie captain of the Dutch national squad last June however, and doing the same at United when the post becomes vacant will hardly be the biggest surprise in the world. Quite how Rooney would react to such a move is unclear, but it’s unlikely to be something that he looks upon with much satisfaction.
If it’s safe to say that Rooney reacted well to Moyes’ stewardship of United, the same can clearly not be said for van Persie. Although it’s difficult to find any direct public criticism of the erstwhile manager from the Dutchman, reports suggesting dissatisfaction regarding the Scot’s training methods and tactical knowledge, for example, are numerous. Perhaps the prime example was following the defeat to Olympiakos in Greece, with the infamous interview van Persie then gave to Dutch television regarding United’s play and how other players were occupying his spaces.
It will be of little comfort to Rooney that with the players about to go into ‘World Cup’ mode for a couple of months, van Gaal and van Persie will be cosseted together in the Dutch training camp, and if there’s any traction to the rumours that the veteran coach is to be appointed as manager at Old Trafford, or even if the post is confirmed shortly, it’s inevitable that conversations will take place between manager and captain regarding the situation. Rooney will be acutely aware of that, and any rumours that leak out – of which there are bound to be a few – will only feed his concern.
Some may feel that such reaction from Rooney would be less than professional, and this may well be true. It should be noted however that managing a football club is little different to managing any set of people. Tactical nous is important of course, but so is an ability to inspire your team. Man-management is a key asset. Rooney is an emotional player. It’s one of his defining characteristics, and fuels his passion. If van Gaal dopes get the job, having a word with a potentially disgruntled non-captain may well be one of the items at the top of his agenda. If not, the newspapers could be set for another summer feeding frenzy of Rooney transfer talk.
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