After Wayne Rooney’s red card madness, should he still captain Manchester United?

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Unexpectedly, unannounced and unwanted, the red midst descended on Wayne Rooney in the 59th minute of Manchester United’s 2-1 win against West Ham at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Rooney, United’s leader, captain and talisman, protested for a handball against West Ham which wasn’t given by referee Lee Mason and the Red Devils striker reacted by chasing down Stewart Downing and mindlessly hacking his opponent down with a swing of his right leg.

Straight red card. Straight to the locker room. No complaints.

[WATCH: Full match replay]

Rooney will now miss three games, the rest of October, and won’t play in crucial matches against Everton, West Brom and Chelsea next month. The next time you will see him in a United shirt is Nov. 2 against Manchester City in the Manchester derby.

[VIDEO: Rooney’s mindless lunge earns him straight red]

Luckily, for Rooney, United held on to beat West Ham and grab their second win of the Louis van Gaal era and the forward even grabbed the first goal of the game. Despite intense pressure for the final 30 plus minutes, the Red Devils’ young defense (which saw Paddy McNair and Luke Shaw both making their debuts) held on admirably after their leader had let them down.

Here’s how United’s manager, the man who made Rooney his captain earlier this summer, described the incident where Rooney saw red.

“It was a break-out of a set-play of ours and he makes a professional foul I think you can call it like that,” van Gaal said. “I don’t think Wayne wanted to do it that way but he did it and you can give a red card.”

So, Rooney was trying to stop a breakaway. Okay. However, there are ways to do that and charging up to an opponents and scything him down with a vicious swipe of your foot isn’t one of them. Rooney is 28, he will be 29 next month and he is the captain of Manchester United and the English national team. Simply put, he should know better than this. Manchester United’s Twitter account tried to soften the blow of Rooney’s red card by Tweeting the following message when it happened:

He has never had a straight-red card in the Premier League in 380 matches but that petulant streak has remained during his entire career. Red cards for England at the World Cup in 2006, for a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho and subsequent spat with Cristiano Ronaldo, plus being sent off against Montenegro for a petulant kick in 2011 stand out as very similar instances to what we saw against West Ham. That’s the big difference here, the petulance. Past United captains such as Roy Keane or Nemanja Vidic got plenty of red cards but they were often for bad tackles or yellow card accumulation. Not for needlessly kicking out at players when their teams was 2-1 up and struggling to seal wins. I remember Keane stamping on Gareth Southgate, crunching Alf Inge Haaland and pushing Alan Shearer early on his career but by the end he tried to curb that. When he couldn’t, Sir Alex Ferguson and Keane parted ways.

[RELATED: Latest Premier League standings]

With all of that happening in the past, how has Rooney not learned from those mistakes? He is supposed to be a leader for the rest of the team, a player who exudes class and professionalism in every single manner. Let’s get this straight, he is a phenomenal player, one of the best in United’s and England’s history and will more than likely break the goalscoring record for both teams. However, that mean streak he has often spills over and last season away at Cardiff he kicked out similarly and got away with it. Not this time. He let his team down and will now pay the price by not playing again in the Premier League until November.

Van Gaal will be disappointed, but should he contemplate taking the captaincy away from Wayne Rooney? That would perhaps be a bold move to publicly humiliate a player of Rooney’s stature like that but against West Ham Rooney proved, once again, that question marks still remain over his credentials to be a captain.

Premier League Preview: Man City v. West Ham

Premier League Preview: Man City v. West Ham
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Manchester City takes the pitch at the Etihad Stadium for the first time since UEFA hammered it with a two-year Champions League ban when it hosts West Ham United on Wednesday (Watch Live at 3 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Manager Pep Guardiola has reportedly stated his commitment to the club ahead of the match, which was rescheduled from last weekend after Storm Ciara hit England.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Second-place City opens the day 25 points back of leaders Liverpool, while West Ham is one point behind 17th place.

The Irons have not won a Premier League match since New Year’s Day, David Moyes‘ first match in charge.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 


Injuries/suspensions

Man City: OUT —  Oleksandr Zinchenko, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane. QUESTIONABLE — Aymeric Laporte, Benjamin Mendy

West Ham: OUT — Jack Wilshere, Andriy Yarmolenko. QUESTIONABLE — Felipe Anderson


Probable lineups

Man City: Ederson; Cancelo, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Walker, Rodri, Gundogan, De Bruyne, D. Silva, Aguero, Mahrez.

West Ham: Fabianski; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Diop, Zabaleta, Rice, Soucek, Noble, Snodgrass, Haller, Antonio.


What they’re saying

West Ham’s David Moyes on the relegation fight: “I’m more than confident we will climb the table. I think the players here are more than capable. I think we have got a good group. I think they are all fully aware of the situation we’re in and the improvement we need to make to make sure we’re not in the bottom three, and I’m sure come the end we will do.”


Prediction

A blowout. While West Ham has the urgency to get out of the drop zone, City will be pouring its full focus into finding form for next week’s Champions League tie with Real Madrid. City, 4-1.

Champions League preview: Spurs host Leipzig, Valencia visits Atalanta

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Two more UEFA Champions League Round of 16 ties kickoff Wednesday, including one being labeled as the biggest in a club’s existence.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

That would be Serie A side Atalanta, which hosts Valencia at 3 p.m. at Gewiss Stadium.

Atalanta had played in two consecutive Europa Leagues, but this is their first move into the Champions League. To make the knockout rounds is exceptional, and club president Antonio Percassi is fired up.

“We must be honest, this is the most important game in the history of this club,” Percassi told Sky Sport Italia. “It doesn’t seem real. It’s exciting just thinking that tomorrow we’ll be in a Champions League Round of 16. It’s wonderful for our fans too. … This is going to be a unique experience that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.”

Atalanta finished second in its group to Manchester City, and is fourth in Serie A. Valencia won its group.

There’s a Premier League side in action on Wednesday, too, as Spurs begin life without Heung-Min Son.

Jose Mourinho spun a tale about how badly Tottenham will need its fans against RB Leipzig, comparing the home-field advantage to an emergency rescue crew of sorts.

Leipzig is led by Julian Nagelsmann, who was once referred to as “Baby Mourinho” by his players.

The 32-year-old was quick to distance himself from the story.

“Tomorrow it is Leipzig against Tottenham, not Mourinho v. Baby Mourinho,” he said. “I have great respect for Mourinho. He has won lots of titles with big clubs, the Champions League twice. He has made his mark on European football at some big European clubs. I think it his 59th knockout game in the CL and it is my first so there is obviously respect there.”

Liverpool’s Robertson not a fan of Atletico Madrid theatrics

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Liverpool fullback Andy Robertson was not impressed with Atletico Madrid’s display as his side fell 1-0 in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The Reds fell behind on a fourth-minute Saul Niguez goal and couldn’t get a shot on target despite 73 percent possession in Spain.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Atleti executed its plan to near-perfection, slowing restarts and taking advantage of counterattacking opportunities to assuage the constant pressure of Liverpool.

At times it was reminiscent of early-century Italian national team play, and both neutrals and Liverpool knew what they were in for once Atleti took the lead.

“We gave them the best possible start to get the fans behind them and then they can start falling over and things like that, trying to get under our skin a bit which I think we handled quite well to be honest,” Robertson told BT Sport. “We know we are better than (how they played). We put in a decent performance and we can be better than that. Luckily we have got a second leg to put it right.”

Given the performance and the reputation, you’d still fancy the Reds to “put it right” at Anfield. Jurgen Klopp thinks Atleti will feel plenty of pressure at Anfield, and he will certainly feel the officiating will be more to his liking.

Liverpool’s Klopp: ‘Our people will be ready’ for second leg at Anfield

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Jurgen Klopp didn’t have any issue with Diego Simeone’s defense-first Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The Spanish side flummoxed Liverpool’s attack and the Reds didn’t manage a shot on target despite eight attempts and 73 percent possession at the Wanda Metropolitano.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

What Klopp didn’t appreciate was the referee’s work, though, implying that Polish official Szymon Marciniak was overwhelmed by the occasion. Marciniak has worked UCL matches for six seasons, twice overseeing quarterfinal ties.

Klopp was shown a yellow card in the second half, and the Liverpool boss felt Sadio Mane was harassed by Atleti. Klopp removed yellow-carrying Mane at halftime.

“He was targeted obviously,” Klopp said after the game. “The only thing they wanted was to make sure he got a yellow card. The score is 1-0, that’s all but you need to be really strong as a ref in this atmosphere. So many things happened, after 30 minutes already three players were on the ground. The first yellow card was a striker from us. I’m not sure they even got a yellow card, which is funny.”

Atleti’s Angel Correa was shown a yellow, while Klopp, Mane, and Joe Gomez were cautioned for Liverpool.

The Liverpool boss found himself laughing a few times, especially when he was asked about Simeone’s touchline personality.

Klopp said before the game that if the German was a four in intensity, then Simeone was a 12. Simeone followed suit by constantly urging the crowd to get behind the home side on Tuesday.

That didn’t bother Klopp, but he issued a public relations officer’s dream in reacting to it.

“Wow, wow,” he laughed. “That’s energy. I don’t think I have to do it that much (at Anfield). Our people will be ready. Welcome to Anfield. It’s not over yet.”

Klopp finished his remarks by saying of Jordan Henderson‘s removal from the game with a hamstring injury, “I hope it was a precaution, but I’m not 100 percent sure”