For most Manchester United supporters, it’s felt like a lifetime since their last conquest of the English Premier League in 2013. The days of “Fergie Time” and silverware galore are now very much in the past, and it seems that the days of the few club legends left over from SAF’s reign are now numbered. The two main faces remaining are current captain & vice-captain, Wayne Rooney & Michael Carrick. Carrick recently pledged his services for one more season, but it’s hard to see him in the team past that, and could struggle to start for the first team. Meanwhile, Rooney has been the subject of countless transfer rumors for a long time now, and he seems like a shadow of the player who established himself as the most prolific goal scorer in United’s history. For me, Wayne Rooney and Manchester United are synonymous, as is the case for most Red Devils fans in my generation. It’s bittersweet to witness him seemingly at the end of his road at Old Trafford as it signals a new era for the club, especially with Jose Mourinho looking to make his presence known with the squad.
As Mourinho begins to reshape the squad with sights set on bringing United back to the summit of world football, Rooney & Carrick’s roles are likely to diminish with (hopefully) a busy transfer window and with the bright young talents coming up through the ranks. With that bears the burning question: who will serve as the next captain of Manchester United Football Club?
There are a few options within the current squad who could take on the armband, but the immense pressure and responsibility that comes with a captaincy at Manchester United must be taken into consideration. Much like the coveted No. 7 shirt, some players haven’t performed to the level expected as club captain, and to the level required to keep that designation (looking at you, Chris Smalling). The next skipper will need to be able to handle the pressure of life at United, and have the characteristics of a natural born leader, on and off the pitch. Here are my thoughts:
Paul Pogba: An obvious consideration, given his immense transfer fee to return to Old Trafford last summer and persona. He started off slowly, but became a stalwart in the midfield and showed he’s fit for the task with his showings in Europa League play. Much like fellow Frenchman Eric Cantona, he fits the mold to become a leader at United. His marketability and status as a face of club sponsor adidas doesn’t hurt his cause either.
Ander Herrera: An absolute fan-favorite at United, Herrera fits the mold of what the club currently needs in a captain. He’s shown leadership on the field, he is never afraid to put his body in jeopardy and he scores vital goals every now and then. Herrera has proven to be a consistent starter who puts in a shift day in and day out and is very rarely seen in the tabloids. He should be the heir-apparent if Rooney were to leave United this summer.
David DeGea: David DeGea should be recognized as the best goalkeeper in the world right now; many experts have him in their top three, but how he’s not considered head and shoulders above the rest is absolutely beyond me. Without him, United would be nowhere near the top of the EPL, bailing out the underachieving revolving back four in front of him countless times over the past few seasons. His multiple transfer sagas could hurt his cause for the armband, but he’s done more than enough to prove his worth between the sticks.
Antonio Valencia: Valencia earned his first honor of captain this past season, in the Europa League Final no less. A converted defender, Tony was arguably the player of the year for United, and has been a fixture and fan favorite for quite some time. Valencia was one of the most consistent wing-backs in the world last season, but as Mourinho re-shapes the squad, his spot on the field and in the talks for captaincy are likely in jeopardy.
Eric Bailly: Some may see this as a surprise inclusion, but Bailly quickly became a fan-favorite at United in his first season with the club and served as a rock in the ever-fluent back four. Like Herrera, he’s not afraid to get stuck in, absolutely flying into tackles on a regular basis, and seemingly getting red cards at a similar pace. Think Rio Ferdinand with the physicality and mentality of Diego Costa. He’s got the necessary passion and spirit, but somewhat consistent injuries and card suspensions could hurt his cause with the boss.
Captain: Paul Pogba
Vice-Captain: Ander Herrera
Alternates: Bailly, DeGea, Valencia
The return of Champions League Football gives patrons of the Theatre of Dreams the ability to do just that once again. Manchester United has seemed to get some of its swagger back with Mourinho at the helm, and world class players continue to be beckoned by the unparalleled history of the club along with the lure of UCL and the fight to be kings of England once again. Exciting times are definitely ahead for the Red Devils; who will be leading them on the field to glory? We’ll have to wait and see.