Belfast Telegraph

Majestic Wayne Rooney stakes skipper claim

West Ham Utd 0 Man Utd 2

By Steve Tongue

Leading from the front in every sense at West Ham on Saturday has improved Wayne Rooney's chances of becoming Manchester United's captain next season.

His manager, David Moyes, who badly needed a second victory of the week to remove some of the growing pressure from his hunched shoulders, was impressed by the way Rooney went about his work, including the touch of genius that brought the first of his two goals in the 2-0 win.

It was not the first time the England striker has taken the armband but the honour will be available on a permanent basis from the end of this season, when Nemanja Vidic leaves for Internazionale.

With Patrice Evra likely to go too and Rio Ferdinand no longer a regular starter, Rooney will be a clear candidate. There has even been a suggestion that the captaincy was dangled as an added carrot in negotiations for the four-year contract extension he signed.

Rooney had previously said: "I've captained a few times for United and if the manager wants me to be captain, I'd have no problem with that. I'd grab it with both hands."

Moyes said no decision would be made until the end of the season, but added: "Maybe he wore the armband and took a wee bit of pride in that. He wanted to show exactly what it means and he wanted to take responsibility. It's for him to show it and you'd have to say he showed it."

Evra and Ferdinand will be back in contention for tomorrow night's derby at home to Manchester City, although Moyes, a former centre-half, was impressed by how well Michael Carrick did in that position at Upton Park.

Olympiakos and West Ham may have been less demanding opponents than City will be, but in achieving two wins without conceding a goal Moyes believes United will have won some renewed belief.

"We go in showing that, if we play as well as we did today, then we'll make chances," he said. "If we play with the same heartbeat we showed against Olympiakos, then we'll be very hard to play against.

"City and Liverpool have been really good going forward throughout the year, that's why they have found themselves at the top of the league. So we have to be mindful of that, we have to have a balance of attacking and defending."

Rooney's volley from just inside the West Ham half may have won the acclaim but his second goal was just as important in subduing the home side. As Gary Neville tweeted: "West Ham was always a ground where you felt something stupid could happen when we were playing there!"

There was never any danger of that this time and Sam Allardyce admitted that his side have "put ourselves in a little danger again". They face Hull City and Sunderland in the next eight days, needing to rediscover last month's fine form after three straight defeats.

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