Wayne Rooney was named the new Manchester United captain by Louis van Gaal tonight, reflecting the immediate impression that the 27-year-old has had on the Dutchman.
Robin van Persie had emerged as the favourite to succeed Nemanja Vidic, because of the close relationship the two had built up in the Dutch national set-up. But van Gaal has a track record of forming strong working relationships with players other managers struggle to discipline and he rapidly identified Rooney as a player with the football intelligence required to adjust to the new fast-moving, possession based style at Old Trafford.
Van Persie was in the stands as as United shaded their last pre-season friendly against Valencia, 2-1. Van Gaal has said he is not yet fit enough to start for United and will miss Saturday’s opener at home to Swansea City.
Van Gaal, who named Daren Fletcher as vice captain, said tonight: “For me it's always very important the choice of captain. Wayne has shown a great attitude towards everything he does. I have been very impressed by his professionalism and his attitude to training and to my philosophy. He is a great inspiration to the younger members of the team and I believe he will put his heart and soul into his captaincy role.
“Darren is a natural leader and will captain the team when Wayne isn't playing. Darren is a very experienced player and a very popular member of the dressing room, I know he will work well alongside Wayne.” Rooney said: “It is a huge honour for me – and for my family – to be named captain of this great club. It is a role I will perform with great pride. Team spirit has always been very high in our dressing room and I am very grateful to the manager for the faith he has shown in me. I look forward to leading the team out on Saturday at our first match of the new season.”
Fletcher, who impressed and scored his first goal since returning from long term illness in the Valencia win, said: “I am delighted to have been named as vice-captain. It's a very proud moment for me and my family. Wayne and I have always worked well together and we will continue to work closely together in our new roles. I would like to thank the manager for putting his trust in me.”
Rooney was impressive again against Valencia. Though he missed a first half penalty, he was United’s most potent force in a second half when he clipped one effort narrowly over the bar.