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.
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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.
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.
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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.