Rooney—whose goal pegged Liverpool back before the Red Devils triumphed 3-1 during the International Champions Cup final in Miami—took the armband throughout the club's latest preseason win. While many viewers may have missed the encounter which took place in the early hours of Tuesday morning (UK time), Rooney left quite an impression on his manager.
David McDonnell of the Mirror reports quotes from Van Gaal, who discussed the need to have a local captain at Old Trafford:
I am always looking for opportunities to give players the captain’s armband. Today Rooney played 90 minutes for the first time. (Darren) Fletcher had already done it two times, then he was the captain, and Tom Cleverley, because he also had 90 minutes. I think you have choose, when it is possible, for the English style. That is when it is possible.
Van Gaal paid specific attention to Rooney, who claimed the ICC's player-of-the-tournament prize after three goals and a string of impressive performances:
He is a man who is always a winner. You saw in the World Cup, when the award went to (Lionel) Messi, it is not always like that. It was deserved for him (Rooney) because he scored a lot of goals and made a lot of assists. The judges are always looking for that.
United's play stuttered during the first half against Liverpool. Van Gaal's defence, which had been dominant throughout the competition, suddenly couldn't deal with the pace of Raheem Sterling and high pressure of Liverpool's midfield. Phil Jones' lunging tackle sent Sterling tumbling to the ground, and like clockwork, Steven Gerrard placed home the resulting penalty to give Liverpool the lead.
Rooney's goal sparked United into life during the second half. His classy volley did well to take the sting out of Javier Hernandez's cross and sent the eventual victors on their way. Juan Mata scored with a deflected shot just moments later, before Jesse Lingard's neat finish captured the silverware for Van Gaal. It barely means anything, sure, but it's a start. Take a peak at the highlights below:
Fletcher also put in another decent shift through the middle, although it remains to be seen whether he has the legs to play an entire season. The Scotsman and Ander Herrera managed to control possession as the game wore on, but struggled when Liverpool's midfield of Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen pressured their every move.
Van Gaal will be pleased to see the midfielder rack up a consistent run of form. The likelihood of Fletcher maintaining enough of a role to warrant the captaincy seems unlikely, though. If LvG's comments are to be assessed, the only homegrown talent worthy of taking the lead is Rooney, especially as his game ascended when under pressure and without Robin van Persie in the States.
There is certainly little chance of Jones, Chris Smalling or Jonny Evans taking the honour, such was the disappointing nature of their displays. Luke Shaw, potentially a future captain for United, put in another decent performance and continues to work hard to overcome his manager's fitness concerns, reported by BBC Sport.
Samuel Luckhurst of the Huffington Post was impressed with the youngster during the win over Liverpool:
Van Gaal admits his side's results "have given a lot of pleasure" to the fans so far, an extremely important factor after David Moyes' reign, per McDonnell. United are passing the ball quickly and confidently, aided by Mata playing in his preferred central position and Rooney starting up front.
While the boss acknowledges the "most important game is Swansea" on the opening day of the Premier League season, United can travel back to England knowing they've made progress. Van Gaal will now work out whether he wants to sign or sell any players before United's friendly with Valencia on Aug. 12, per Mark Ogden of the Telegraph.
The Dutchman has already proven himself shrewd enough to drill United's current squad into winning shape. Granted, preseason may be dismissed as nothing more than a fitness exercise, but Van Gaal and his team have set the right tone from the off.
Rooney's positioning as captain looks likely, especially after he posted a number of match-winning displays on tour. The English forward encapsulates the fiery, aggressive attitude of his manager best out of anyone in United's squad, making him an easy choice.
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