Paul Parker

United’s misery will continue if petulant Rooney is named new captain

As a former Manchester United player watching the game from Delhi, where I was providing studio analysis for international coverage, needless to say the 2-0 defeat at Olympiacos was a very sobering experience.

I’ll get into the performance-related aspects of why shortly, but more important is the bottom line: United are very likely going to be absent from Champions League competition for the first time in 20 years.

Yes, it remains possible that they could sneak into the Premier League top four with a tremendous late surge, but does that really look like happening?

Meanwhile, their seemingly-strong form in the first half of the European campaign came apart after they were rather easily defeated by the weakest side in the last-16.

Olympiacos more than likely sold Kostas Mitroglou, their star man in the first half of the campaign, to Fulham in January to cash in as much as possible, knowing their domestic season was in hand and because they didn’t expect to get any further than the first knockout stage of the CL.

And yet, they hold a 2-0 lead over the three-time European champions.

It’s still very feasible that United may yet turn it around at Old Trafford. But even if they do, does anyone really think they will go all the way now? The likes of Bayern, Dortmund, Barcelona and Real Madrid will be licking their chops if they draw the Red Devils in the last eight, should such a comeback happen.

Looking at the defeat in-depth, it’s more obvious than ever before that David Moyes (or any other manager, for that matter) needs a huge overhaul in personnel if United are to find success post-Fergie.

Unfortunately, the bottom line of no Champions League football will make even that a tougher task.

I was hugely disappointed with just about every aspect of the United performance, with the exception of David De Gea. And I see even he has been subject to plenty of criticism in some circles.

At the back, Rio Ferdinand is no longer the rock he once was. This, surely, has to be his last season in a United shirt. I bet he now wishes he packed it in over the summer and went out on a high – and he may not be the only one.

I like Chris Smalling. He has talent and is a grafter, but players as tall and rangy as he is seldom work at full-back and the evidence was there in Greece as Hernan Perez and others made life increasingly difficult for him.

It was one of the meekest defensive performances from the club in some time, but my frustration at the side only increases as we move forward.

It has been long established, even when United were at their peak, that if you set out with plenty of workrate and energy in midfield you can cause them problems. It didn’t always work, but it was the best strategy for lesser clubs to stand a chance of rocking the big boys.

Olympiacos did just that, but I think even they will be surprised with just how easily it reaped rewards for them in the middle of the park.

I’ll leave some of the derogatory remarks towards individual midfielders to the sad trolls on social media, but from a professional standpoint, the United midfield as a collective unit was very sub-par and lacked creativity as well as confidence.

[OVERREACTION THEATRE: WAG SHOWS MORE FIGHT THAN UNITED PLAYERS]

As for the front pairing of Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney – well, remember when some previous bad results this season were blamed on their absence?

For one of the most appealing strike-forces in Europe, just how little threat they offered at Olympiacos surprised me greatly.

The biggest disappointment of all was Rooney himself. Of course, his huge new contract means he needs to be delivering almost on a weekly basis to justify such a princely wage, but £300k a week isn’t the thing about Wayne that disturbs me the most based on Tuesday’s game.

Rather, it’s the fact that Moyes has earmarked him to replace the outgoing Nemanja Vidic as club captain from next season.

Against Olympiacos, Rooney had temperament issues and failed to offer any positive influence on the pitch against the adversity of going two down.

After Joel Campbell scored the second, there remained 35 minutes of play and just one goal would have spun the tie on its head going into the second leg, thanks to home advantage and the away goals rule.

There may never be a better chance for Rooney to prove his worth as a captain of any side, let alone Manchester United, than to have led by example and inspire his colleagues to step it up in search of that crucial consolation.

Instead, Rooney was despondent and at times, utterly petulant.

That’s not a club captain, in my view.

United needed more than Juan Mata in January, we know that. Maybe they will finally replace the over-the-hill and out-of-their depth players with better quality in the summer. Hopefully they also bring in some more experience for the backroom staff – I rate the likes of Phil Neville and Steve Round, but they lack the experience for the current situation and need some assistance, I feel.

But, even if United do finally overhaul a side that needed a makeover as far back as Sir Alex’s fortunate last season in charge, it now feels inevitable they will do so without Champions League football and with £300k-a-week Rooney as their on-the-pitch leader.

Whether Moyes remains manager or doesn't, I cannot be the only one who is extremely concerned for the club's future.