United do indeed have leaders throughout the team so does it really matter who wears that big 'C' on his arm, and gets to lift the silverwear?
To me at least, the answer is yes. And it has a two fold explanation to it. One part is historical and one part is practical, but neither has anything to do with common sense:
When I was a boy (violins start to play) the captain of Manchester United Football Club was Bryan Robson. He was heroic. A leader. A man's man. He led the team on the pitch and was the symbol of the club off it. While Liverpool scooped up title after title we all just gave thanks that we had the best captain on the planet. It mattered to us. Since then we've seen real United icons wear the armband. Since 1982, United have only had FIVE captains. That is an amazing stat in modern football. Robbo, Bruce, Cantona, Keano..and of course Red Nev. I understand that there is a modern slant on the captaincy, as to 'who gives a toss who wears it'...but to me it still represents something..
Which leads me to Nemanja Vidic now leading the team out.
Don't get me wrong. I have great respect for Vida. The man leads by example. Smashing defenders with the efficiency of a Jaap Stam and showing the bravery of a warrior. But in my opinion the guy should not be captain and that is simply because he does not skipper the side when Rio plays. Ferdinand does that job when he starts...as would Neville. I totally get Fergie's reasons for appointing Vida but my opinion still stands true..that the guy who is actually running the show for the team on the pitch deserves 'THE HONOUR' of wearing that armband...and it is an honour to captain Man Utd.
The Valencia game highlighted all this to me like a beacon! Vidic lead the team out, yet Rio lead the team on the pitch. I would rather there was a hierarchy to the captaincy rather than this 'oh he plays the most so he should have it'... I think that's crass. Those who purely lean on the side of common sense will say "but surely its better to have a stable captain", but I say "surely its better to have the RIGHT captain"..you know! The one who actually does the job for 90 minutes!
Ultimately, I don't think any of this will effect results, so I see why some United fans think its some negative tirade against Vidic or what not. But the only reason why I raise the subject is that I view that strip of material as being representative of the history of my football club. You don't just get it cos you play the most...otherwise we would have had Ronaldo as captain not so long ago. He played the most...why not have him as captain every week? In the future, if we are lucky enough to see United lift more silverwear in our lives, I want the real skipper on the pitch to be the lucky guy who gets to be immortalized in all those pictures, lifting the cups, that we look back on over and over again. Not just a guy who was the fittest or the most regular pick.
To some of us die hards, the footnotes in history interest us.
(ps. before anyone comments and gets upset that I haven't mentioned our wonderful smash and grab in Spain last night, as I've said before, I try not to do match reports. Last night was a great European victory at a stadium we thought we would struggle at. The manager got his tactics spot on...and that's why in Sir Alex we trust)
We are yet to set foot in the month of October, yet it's already feeling like an incredibly emotional season. After last minute muggings on Merseyside, disappointment in West London, a borderline farce against the champions of Scotland, and a huge opportunity lost against Bolton, I'm not sure how any of our hearts are gonna take all this as the games come thick and fast!
Three wins and three draws is by no means the worst start in the world. That is only 6pts off the maximum we could have achieved so far. But there is a niggling feeling that there's been a certain level of under achievement happening in front of our eyes. We've always been slow starters. That is the United norm. But the surrendering of late goals, and a lack of potency at times at the other end of the pitch have raised unusual question marks.
The biggest blot of course is against Rooney. His form is shot and I guess we all know why. After the revelations of his not-so-private life I was quick to jump to his defence. Not in an expected showing of blind loyalty, but because I really felt that he would suck it up and stick two fingers to the sky at his detractors on the pitch. However....I was wrong. I'd say Wayne is operating at maybe 50% of his powers at the mo. It shows in his body language and his facial expression. I think he has a mountain to climb this season as he tries to sort out his life off the pitch. How reliable he will truly be to the cause of the team in the immediate future is now fully up for debate.
But we do have options...
The overall form of Dimitar Berbatov has been pleasing (though he went missing at the Reebok) and it looks like Kiko Macheda will feature this season more than last. But it's Michael Owen that has got my attention. I think most forget that before his season was cut short by the most dodgy of pitches at Wembley, that the former Scouse lynch pin was in a great vein of form. Had we had him available for the rest of the season post Carling Cup last year, would he have made a difference? We will never know but in my opinion it would have been a fourth straight championship with him fit, especially after Rooney's ankle injury against Bayern.
Owen now has 3 goals in less than three halves of football. His goal against Bolton was the sort of opportunism that we have sorely lacked so far this season. With our style of play it's always very hard to think of how you accommodate a player like him, but maybe us having to diversify our formation to fit him in may not be a bad thing. Last year, teams worked us out at times. We were very 'Rooney heavy'. We got battered in several ties, that in previous years would not have happened. This year we have different challenges. We are now 'Rooney-lite' and it appears we need to find more goals from somewhere within. Berba and Nani may well score substantially more than last season, but I really think that Owen is the key. He is the predator in our squad. The one player whose business is only about scoring. He's not going to get involved in other areas of the pitch as all our other strikers will do. We have to utilise and arm his weaponry NOW cos we cant wait for Wazza to get his head together. Of course Chicharito is also an option to Sir Alex, but I think it would be unfair to burden the boy at such an early stage of his career. Slowly but surely for his development. He will play his part this year.
Valencia will be a tough challenge. It's true that they are not a team with a David Villa or Silva anymore, but a trip to Spain is always tough and they currently lead the very early La Liga table. But remember what Michael Owen did in Wolfsburg last year? Should he be given the opportunity at The Mestalla he may well just do it again.
So it's mixed emotions so far, but when have United ever done ANYTHING easy? We have a position in the league that we would have taken a month ago, and we only have to glance west to the shore where Liverpool exist to see what staring the relegation zone of the league looks like. The key to success in the next few weeks could come from a player that cost us nothing, and quite possibly the return of two midfield crocks in Anderson and Hargreaves. You cant help but think United need some sort of inspiration, and it could well come from the most unlikeliest of sources.
Sometimes it's the unfashionable that really kick start your season.
It would be very easy to just go off on one now about last nights game. There is nothing worse than seeing a half-arsed team selection before kick off to then witness a half-arsed team display over ninety notoriously dull minutes. It was predictable at 1930, and the prophecy was true come 2145.
We've now already drawn three matches this season. It is still very early days but I think most United fans are starting to get edgy after surrendering points at both Fulham and Everton, and now...and worst of all for me personally...a drab, lifeless performance at home against a 'functional' Rangers side, in a match that will only be remembered as the game that Tony Valencia tragically snapped his leg in half.
As many know, I am the whole hearted advocate of Sir Alex, and yes there are many of us. He doesn't often get it wrong but he dropped the ball last night. To make TEN changes from the previous line up and not even have your form players (Berba, Nani, Vidic, etc) on the bench smacks of some ill planning and preparation. When I saw the team sheet before the game last night I immediate thought Fergie was playing a poker style bluffing game, whilst knowing he didn't hold much in his hand. We played two full backs who have had zero game time recently. We played a brand new centre back pairing..one playing his first game in months and one making his European debut. We played two central midfielders who don't have a trick between them (no matter how hard they work) We played Park in a wingers role, one that isn't really his style in a midfield 4. And we played a brand new strike partnership, again one making his European bow and one coming back from the most almighty of personal scandal.
Rangers must have killed themselves laughing when they saw all that! (I must say I have no problem with the way the Scots set themselves up on the night..parking the bus in front of the goals. What did we really expect??!)
And all this against a manager who knows Sir Alex inside out..a man with a bottomless pit of knowledge on us. The score was written before a ball was even kicked.
On other nights, United would have struggled through, put a batten charge on for the last ten, and got a goal or two. But with zero invention, and an empty vat of creativity, that team was never gonna prevail. I expect better of our manager. I know his strengths and his minuscule weaknesses. His foresight is normally invaluable. Yet he put out a Carling Cup line up for what is a must win game...a home match in your opening game of The Champions League. Ive already seen United fans say oh well so what we will still walk the group. That is a stupid thought. These same fans were saying we would thrash Rangers as well last night. We have to find that happy ground between arrogance (which comes from following the biggest club in the world) and complacency (which again comes from following the biggest club in the world) Its a trick to stay between these two goalposts. Yet as the fans fall over the line on one hand, the team falls over the line on the other side. It worries me...it always worries me.
So after months of us all praying that Dimitar Berbatov finds some form which he has, we decide to give him the night off! Same can be said for Nani. All eyes look forward to Liverpool now. The beauty of football is that despite 'only being as good as your last game' there's always the challenge of a new opponent around the corner. United..and Ferguson..need to start slipping through the gears soon. History dictates that we are always slow starters, but one year that wont be an excuse and we will be out of the reckoning before we can blink
Now is a time for action
PS.. all the best to Tony Valencia. Brought back horrible memories of Alan Smith and David Buust. Lets hope for a full recovery for the lad.
So the 'revelations', which most of us knew back in April, have finally been splurged out by the gutter press for their rabid circulation to devour and choke upon in a glutinous feeding frenzy.
Yes, Wayne Rooney has been with a lady of the night (allegedly COUGH)
This of course makes him a very very bad man in many peoples eyes..because it has never ever been known that a man 'hire' a woman to take part in his own fantasy bed Olympics, and it has never ever happened to any other footballer in the history of the world...
Wazza has been a proper fool...yes. We are ALL agreed on that. Wayne will get a proper roasting from his wife, family and Sir Alex (not necessarily in that order) And one day he will have to look his son in the eye and say "I cheated on your Mother while she was carrying you in her womb".....none of it makes pretty reading does it?
But as far as United fans are concerned: 'How and why do we actually care about this?'
Now I used to buy the Red Tops when I was a teenager. A bit of slap and tickle, some decent sports coverage and the odd story about aliens, cats up trees, blah blah blah. It was 'daily light entertainment' Then somewhere in the 90s it became celebrity obsessed. First Princess Diana, then Michael Jackson, then all the politicians, and somewhere along the line a 'hotel roasting' by some footballers made it as good copy for headlines.
Then I stopped buying those papers.
With footballers private lives...I get why people are interested. These guys are this generations' film stars...dripping in diamonds and bling. Whereas I had four TV channels, posters on my wall and attending matches for my football fix as a kid, today they have 24 hr access to these superstars via Twitter, Facebook, Google, Sky TV and the rest. Saturation has been met. A huge part of the population actually believe they have some 'connection' with these people...and therefore they....'care'
This is where the murky line starts to provoke me.
I'm not particularly old skool. I'm technology savvy. I have an uber smartphone. I write a blog. But it will always deeply confuse me that despite the way the celebrity world works why Joe Bloggs in the street thinks that he and his wife and their kids and their next door neighbours need worry about who Wayne Rooney is doing the fandango with.
Many will say "but I'm interested cos he plays for my club..its my right to be interested!' To that I say OK..but what actually makes a generation of people sit up and judge a man that they really do not know? Quasi-morals? Yes. Bloody mindedness? More likely. Gossip mongering? Absolutely.
Others will say "But we ALL took an interest when JT and Cashley went on the scandal carousel..Roo deserves everything he gets!" Once again there is credence in this. But nothing is black or white is it?? Mr John Terry did actually have an affair with the (former yes) girlfriend of an England team mate. That makes it a football matter in my honest opinion. Whereas Rooney's situation at this present time appears only to be a private and family matter. Is that inter-club bias? I wont say no to that. But for me there is a line in the sand between the two episodes.
I'm not gonna defend Rooney. The boy is an idiot. But as a football fan first, and someone that despises all that celebrity nonsense, I have no actual interest in the Rooney story. Its away from United. His private life does NOT belong to us. You learn facts like these as you grow up and mature. Id have once gobbled this whole story up as a teen! It would have torn my yet undeveloped moral fibre to pieces! I would have been pontificating to whoever would listen about how he had shamed the badge. But the truth is if it doesn't hurt his form...then I really couldn't give a toss.
Every man and woman has to answer their own demons eventually...and I say that in a 100% non religious way. What goes around comes around. Sometimes we are good, and other times we shame ourselves. This is the place where Rooney is now. The last thing he needs is us to judge him as well..a bloke we will never know. I'm sure he is doing all of that himself. A multi millionaire he may be. But forgiveness is not something you can buy. And neither is redemption.
I for one have nothing to forgive Wayne Rooney for. So I will cheer the boy on at Goodison next weekend. Our opponents will be (rightfully) throwing ten tonnes of stick at the lad in the coming weeks. We've got to be partisan and chuck it right back.
Manchester United fan since the age of 9 when he saw Norman Whiteside curl the ball into a Wembley goal in the dying minutes.
He is an Old Trafford season ticket holder in the North Stand Tier 3...and cried tears of joy, on his knees with the many in Moscow.
Rob is a contributing author/editor at Man Utd blogzine 'The Faithful'