Van Gaal tells captain Rooney to ‘let it fly’

United’s new skipper encouraged to relax by his manager ahead of the new season

Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal’s tenure will officialy start against Swansea at Old Trafford on Saturday.  Photograph:   Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal’s tenure will officialy start against Swansea at Old Trafford on Saturday. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

 

Louis van Gaal has told Wayne Rooney he must relax if he is to be a successful leader of Manchester United.

Van Gaal takes charge of his first competitive match as United boss on Saturday when Swansea come to Old Trafford. It will also be the first time Rooney has led the team out in his new role as United’s full-time captain.

Rooney was announced as the club’s skipper on Tuesday night, following the 2-1 win over Valencia. He also wore the armband in the friendly victory, but he put in a sub-par performance on the night, missing a penalty in the first half.

Van Gaal believes Rooney has the potential to be an excellent United captain, but the Dutchman thinks the striker must not be over-awed by the responsibility.

“I said to him (after the Valencia game): ‘Maybe it was too much for you as a captain’,” Van Gaal told a press conference. “But I said to him — ‘let it fly’, because when we were (on tour) in the US, he scored a lot of goals, and made a great amount of assists so I wanted to say that.”

Given that Van Gaal enjoys a good relationship with Robin van Persie, who skippered the Netherlands under the United boss at the World Cup, Rooney’s appointment as United captain came as something of a surprise.

Van Persie even missed out on the vice-captaincy, which was awarded to long-serving midfielder Darren Fletcher, who had an excellent pre-season tour.

It was Rooney’s workrate and application in pre-season that won him the honour of following in the footsteps of club greats such as Bobby Charlton, Bryan Robson and Eric Cantona. But before he handed Rooney the armband, Van Gaal reminded the player — who has had his moments of ill-discipline in the past — he must be a fine ambassador for the club away from the field of play, as well as on it.

“His attitude, of course,” Van Gaal said when asked why he selected Rooney. “That is in the pitch and on the training ground and I have explained to him also outside the pitch is also very important for me.

“And he accepted the responsibility and I like very much how he did train and also how he performed in the game and how he performed to his fellow players.”

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