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Why It's Time to Ditch Wayne Rooney - Manchester United's Ticking Time Bomb

02/10/2014 17:14 BST | Updated 02/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Manchester United have a problem. A 28-year-old, 5'10 problem. And Louis van Gaal made him captain.

It seemed to make sense at the time. He's been at the club for 10 years, has the kind of temperament that many people believe makes him a leader and, well, there was nobody else.

Because of that, Van Gaal really needed Rooney to thrive in the captain's role and disguise the lack of options behind him. Instead, he's been treated to a run of indifferent form and a stupid, reckless sending off.

If the situation was different - United being in less of a 'in crisis', more options for a potential captain behind Rooney - then Van Gaal would almost certainly have seriously considered replacing his skipper after his red card against West Ham.

But the list of potential replacements is pretty uninspiring: Robin van Persie (injury-prone and in and out of the first team), Phil Jones (already has to marshal a shaky defensive line) and David de Gea, who is apparently not ready for the responsibility.

It might be time for one of them to be tested soon though, if Rooney continues his slow decline. He was one of the better players in an average side last season, but the addition of Juan Mata, Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria has given United far greater ability in attack - and Rooney may now not even be in their best XI.

He started the season okay, a good performance in the opening day loss to Swansea, but has gone backwards rapidly since then - his only other decent performance coming in the 4-0 destruction of QPR, where Di Maria and Herrera were the real stars.

That aside, his form has been a repeat of his World Cup displays. For those who have blocked out that disastrous England campaign - and it'd be hard to blame you - here's a quick reminder: He wasn't very good.

But putting the performances aside for a second, he's shown time and time again that he's not captaincy material. Every time it looks like he's turned the corner and matured, he goes and proves that he's just as temperamental as ever.

Many cite his 'passion' as one of his best leadership qualities, but that only counts if you're in control of yourself - and he doesn't seem to be. At that point, 'passion' becomes hotheadedness, and that's an issue rather than a virtue.

Rooney's last pair of games perfectly encapsulate all the reasons he's not suited for captaincy. Against Leicester, he went nuclear when the Foxes equalised - screaming at his defenders, including youngster Tyler Blackett. Almost certainly unnerved by his captain's clear contempt for him, Blackett ended up sent off and United lost 5-3. Good motivational work, Wayne.

The next match against West Ham was just as bad. With his side pegged back to 2-1 and under the cosh, Rooney lashed out at Stewart Downing without a hope of getting the ball. He was rightly sent off and a young and inexperienced United defence, including a centre-back making his senior debut, had to hold out with only 10 men for more than half an hour.

For any player, that's irresponsible. For a senior player, that's a huge error. For the newly appointed captain? It was nigh-on unforgivable. Make no mistake - United have won more games this season in spite of Rooney than they have because of him.

The next three games, while he's suspended, are very important for the ex-Everton man's future. Nobody will keep him out of the first team on his return - Van Gaal has assured him of that. But a handful of good performances from whoever fills his spot will sow more seeds of doubt in the minds of the fans and, more importantly, the manager.

There's no way that a player who blows hot and cold like Rooney has become prone to doing should be guaranteed a start in a team with Falcao, Van Persie, Mata et al - and publically stating that the England skipper would always be in his first XI may be Van Gaal's biggest mistake at Old Trafford so far.

If his attitude and form don't improve dramatically before Christmas, some hard decisions will have to be made. Van Gaal has a history of not respecting reputations, and he may well go back on his promise to play Rooney if he deems it necessary.

Once again, there's interesting times ahead at Old Trafford. The storm may be only just beginning.

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