LONDON: Louis Van Gaal’s decision to appoint Wayne Rooney as captain of Manchester United came into question after the England forward was sent off in the club’s 2-1 win over West Ham. It was the one factor Van Gaal did not need to overshadow the team’s second Premier League victory of his command.
Rooney, who celebrated the 10th anniversary of his United debut over the weekend, was made club skipper by the Dutchman upon his arrival at Old Trafford ahead of Robin Van Persie whom Van Gaal had appointed Holland captain.
But, having scored the opening goal and with England manager Roy Hodgson watching from the stands, Rooney brought down Stewart Downing, deep in West Ham’s half, with a waist-high lunging hack from behind.
It was the third dismissal of Rooney’s United career – to go with two for England and one for Everton – and was peculiar in being so far from his own goal. It was also his first United expulsion for a straight red card and his first in the Premier League for five years.
Van Gaal conceded: “In professional football you make professional fouls and I have seen it in this match five or six times. Wayne has done it also so, professionally, as a coach I can see that but he did it too confrontationally. That’s maybe his biggest mistake.
“He only wanted to trip him, he said to me he wanted to do that. Before that he played very well, I was very pleased with him, he scored a good goal.”
Rooney’s goal was his 176th in the Premier League, into sole possession of third place on the all-time list ahead of Thierry Henry and behind only Alan Shearer and Andy Cole.
He scored after only five minutes, converting a right-wing cross from Rafael da Silva. West Ham should have been level immediately but Enner Valencia shot over the bar with only keeper David De Gea to beat.
Injury-hit United continued to look vulnerable at the back but Van Persie doubled their lead on 22 minutes. This time the assist came from Radamel Falcao, continuing to raise questions about why he was not brought into the Premier League – by someone – years earlier.
Diafra Sakho headed home for West Ham in the 37th minute and United held out despite Rooney’s expulsion just before the hour.
Having been a naughty boy, Rooney then decided it would send out the wrong impression if he went ahead with plans to board a private jet to fly to Germany to watch his friend Paul Smith Jr take on Arthur Abraham in a WBO title fight in Kiel.
Sensible decision: Smith suffered the wrong decision as well.