Wayne Rooney has held the Manchester United captaincy since 2014 and while the club’s all-time record goalscorer’s influence during more than a decade at Old Trafford is unquestioned, he became captain at a time when his powers were in decline.
Nowadays, Rooney is a fringe player for United, having only featured more prominently in league games at the end of the season because the focus had shifted to the Europa League. There are questions being asked regarding whether Rooney should stay or leave this summer, and it’s telling that Jose Mourinho’s preference would be to see the player elsewhere.
This leaves Mourinho with a tricky conundrum to resolve. Who will be the next captain of Manchester United? Vice-captain Michael Carrick, 35, is unlikely to play as regularly in the next campaign so we are only going to consider realistic candidates.
Chris Smalling would be in for contention had his form not massively dipped at the end of Van Gaal’s reign, which culminated in a sending-off in the FA Cup final win over Crystal Palace. The defender has struggled ever since to get into the United line-up due to injuries and less than stellar performances.
Below, The Sportsman considers some of the leading candidates for Manchester United captaincy:
David de Gea
Not only is De Gea one of the best goalkeepers in the world, he is popular among his team-mates.
Real Madrid came knocking again this summer but De Gea surprisingly didn’t push for a transfer, and now the LaLiga giants appear to be looking elsewhere for a new No.1 with AC Milan’s Gianluigi Donnarumma and Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois thrown into the mix.
From a United perspective, handing De Gea the armband should convince the Spaniard to stay with the club for the longer term. He can see all the action in front of him and enjoys the responsibility of sweeping up behind his defence.
Herrera is one of the favourites among fans for the captaincy role since becoming a mainstay in the United team. He understands the club’s demands and philosophy.
Handling the media is something a United captain should be comfortable with, and having studied journalism Herrera would have few qualms with that.
He is loving life under Mourinho and could spend many more years at Old Trafford.
And, one of his highlights of last season was when he showed his leadership qualities by urging Henrik Mkhitaryan to get into the box for the corner which led to his goal.
United made Pogba the world’s most-expensive last summer with the idea of building a team around the Frenchman. The former Juventus starlet accepts his worth to the team and now seems to thrive under the responsibility of being Old Trafford’s new star.
Next season Pogba needs to pop up with crucial goals and perform against United’s domestic rivals, but first Mourinho needs to identify the right signing to help unleash the 24-year-old in midfield.
Pogba could wear the armband for many years to come. He has already handled the pressure of being the most expensive footballer on the planet, so being United captain would hardly unnerve him.
Unlike Rooney, Pogba starts and finishes games.
Despite wearing the armband for United’s biggest game of the season — Europa League final against Ajax — Valencia doesn’t speak English very well, and that doesn’t bode well for a future captain of the Premier League’s biggest club.
That said, Valencia was rightly awarded United’s Players’ Player of the Year award after a sensational campaign. Originally a right-winger, the Ecuadorian adapted to his new role as a full-back become the club’s most improved player.
If you take Rooney and Carrick out of the equation, Valencia is the club’s longest-serving player after joining from Wigan in 2009 — eight years ago. Mourinho is a fan but whether or not he sees him as a permanent captain remains to be seen.