Ron Atkinson bought Bryan Robson. Alex Ferguson bought Roy Keane. As far as captains go, they don’t come any better than these two. Keane, in fact, is the most successful captain United have ever had and Robson would have been close had he been playing with better quality in the team around him.
Since the retirement of Ferguson the captain’s armband has gone to Wayne Rooney. It has also been worn by Michael Carrick and Chris Smalling. These players are about as frightening and awe inspiring as the three main characters, (after Dorothy and Toto), in a certain novel by L. Frank Baum.
This is a role for which José Mourinho needs to find somebody as a matter of some urgency.
It is no coincidence that, when United’s performances started to tail off after a good start to the season, there was no mention of dressing room arguments or bust-ups. It was all polite discussion about what was going wrong. In other words nobody took the initiative and dragged the team through it’s rough patch as both Robson and Keane would have done.
Neither would have stood for the type of performance on display against Manchester City, Watford or Feyenoord. One bad game was accepted but not forgotten and that was it.
Wayne Rooney is only ever likely to shout at his kids or his wife, (and he appears to be rather in awe of her). His toys only ever come out of the pram when he wants a new contract or he is not getting his own way. He has never shown any evidence of being captaincy material either with United or England.
Michael Carrick doesn’t play enough games to be captain but, even if he did, his constant sideways passing and slowing down of the play is hardly a great example of what is required of a captain.
There is a certain belief that, if a captain is not verbally loud, then it is possible to lead by example. That is nonsense. A captain has to shout, cajole, bully and praise his team mates constantly. Spraying a nice pass out to the wing will not inspire his team to play better.
Chris Smalling as captain is, quite honestly, laughable. What is the criteria at United? Do you have to be a nice person, a slightly moronic type who pays for his dog to travel first class by train when people, not too far from Piccadilly station, are living in cardboard boxes?
An IQ above 100 is not a necessary requirement to be captain of United, which is just as well because the aforementioned three players probably don’t total that between them. What is required is passion, commitment, loyalty and an ability to read the game in such a way that other players can be “persuaded” to perform better. This needs to be evident both on and off the pitch but is, obviously, far more important on it.
Manchester United have a pretty decent squad of players. It is too big and definitely contains some deadwood which needs shifting. With the addition of one or two in the next transfer window this team could be turned into title contenders. For this to happen one of those additions needs to be a Robson or a Keane.