By Harriet Drudge.
A lack of talented leadership at Manchester United is perhaps more worrying than the fact the defence has more leaks than Julian Assange could cover on his website.
A clean sheet and four goals against QPR was never going to be a season-defining moment, but it very much felt like the ‘old United’ were back; as Ollie Holt of the Daily Mirror put it, the ‘swagger’ had returned.
Anyone listening to Louis van Gaal pre-Leicester may have thought that was down to Wayne Rooney, as the Dutchman labelled the 28-year-old striker ‘un-droppable’. There are two players in the Manchester United team who are ‘un-droppable’*, and the skipper isn’t one of them.
The newly appointed England and Manchester United captain flatters to deceive in terms of his leadership qualities. He has never hidden his ambition to lead and some exceptional performances have seen him single-handedly get his team out of a hole, which is why many saw him as the ideal successor to both Steven Gerrard and Nemanja Vidic respectively. Others deemed him the only option. The rest? They would have seen the armband given to anyone but the former Everton man.
Not all fans are fickle. Some have long memories. Rooney may be on course to break Sir Bobby Charlton’s goals record for Manchester United and he will go down in the history books as England’s record goal-scorer too, if he can surpass the same man’s tally for his country.
He will never be adored in the same way, though. He will never be spoken about in the same breath as Law, Best or Ronaldo at United, or Charlton, Lineker or Gascoigne for England, despite topping the tallies. There are simply too many indiscretions on his report card.
Footballers are hardly renowned to be the most saintly of beings, nor are they commonly regarded as intellectuals (although many have more brain cells than we give them credit for). Most are switched on enough not to p*** on their own doorstep though. Rooney has in both the red of United and the white of England and for the world to see – which is why he will never be respected as a captain.
Two transfer requests at Manchester United, seeing red in important matches and aggressively shouting at England fans for booing after a 0-0 draw against Algeria in 2010 has done nothing to endear him to the watching fandom. But what about his club and international teammates, especially his younger colleagues?
The likes of Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw and Tyler Blackett saw those outbursts too. They have seen him disrespect their club – and get away with it – and continue to act rashly when representing their country, only to be rewarded for it. What kind of example does that set?
You don’t have to like someone to respect them. Equally, you can like someone without respecting them or admire someone’s achievements without respecting them as a person. Rooney’s achievements in the game are undeniably impressive – his teammates undoubtedly respect his scoring record – and he is a popular member of the group. But is he a respected leader? Can he really inspire his teammates when the going gets tough?
Rooney proclaims to have always seen himself as a future captain of club and country. When he was young and bursting onto the scene, you could see that ambition in his play and in his attitude on the pitch. It was refreshing to see despite the ill-discipline that at times came with his enthusiasm. He used to dish out orders left, right and centre, get involved wherever he could and shout at senior colleagues. He used to, and actually still does shout a lot.
A captain has to set an example on the pitch, whether that’s through actions or communication. Shouting to (and sometimes at) teammates comes with the territory, but it requires considered thought to be effective. A good leader picks their moment and doesn’t shout for the sake of shouting.There is more to leadership than hollering orders or telling people off.
Remember that scary teacher at school? The one who didn’t shout much, but when they did, you listened? That’s how a captain should be.
Now, think back… do you remember that teacher at school who used to shout all the time? And I mean ALL. THE. TIME. Was he/she scary? Did you always listen? I didn’t think so. Shouting is meaningless if it is constant. It just becomes noise.
It has been a trait of Rooney’s leadership this season to use his voice rather than his feet, with his explosions mostly being reserved for academy graduate, Tyler Blackett.
Sometimes a back four deserves a rollicking for not getting up the pitch quick enough or your teammate should expect an ear-bashing if he loses possession in a dangerous area. But, shout all the time and no-one will listen.
No-one is listening, Wayne.
*David de Gea and Angel di Maria
Read more from Harriet Drudge here!