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Candidates to replace Wayne Rooney as Manchester United captain

As Manchester United approach the final stretch of their first season under Jose Mourinho, many will begin to think about what is in store for 2017/18. One of the many question marks that hang over Old Trafford will be: Who’s going to be captain? As many fans will know, Wayne Rooney’s career at United is coming to a close. The Englishman has enjoyed a wonderfully successful career wearing the red of United but has slowly been ousted from the manager’s plans. In this article, I will look at potential candidates to wear the armband next season and beyond, while also giving a mention to players who may fit the bill but whose future’s may not lie at Old Trafford.

Honourable Mentions:

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

As mentioned above, Ibrahimovic comes under this section due to the uncertainty surrounding his future. The Swede has continued to defy the odds this season, scoring 28 goals in a remarkable debut campaign. On top of that, he has oozed belief and confidence in the dressing room, while also acting as a mentor to the likes of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. However, the question marks about him signing a new contract, as well as the long-term injury sustained against Anderlecht, are the reasons this is a long shot. Mourinho is going to name a captain in which he can count on for a number of years, and it looks more and more likely that Ibrahimovic will play his football elsewhere once returned from injury.

Michael Carrick

Carrick has captained United several times this season and is a calming influence when on the pitch. The midfield man has enjoyed a long, successful career at United, and very rarely has a bad game. Carrick would be the perfect candidate for the captaincy next season if he was, say, five years younger. But much like Ibrahimovic, fans and pundits alike just don’t know where his future lies. The Englishman is 35 now, and his playtime will only decrease the older he gets. If Carrick was to stay at United, I would expect him to play a role like the one played by Ryan Giggs in his later years. An effective role, helping the team out where he can, and rotating in and out when needed. But as mentioned before, Mourinho’s skipper will be one that can play week after week.

The Candidates:

5. Chris Smalling

Smalling, like Carrick, has captained United several times this season. He is assured in his defending, isn’t afraid to bring the ball out from the back, and is a vocal presence when on the pitch. Smalling’s biggest problem, not only this season but in seasons prior has been injured. The defender has struggled to nail down a spot on the team sheet in his time at Old Trafford, and it seems unrelenting. The 27-year-old sustained a broken toe in October’s league defeat to Chelsea and is now out until mid-May with a knee injury. This is a problem which prevents Smalling from staking any sort of claim for the captaincy next season, but if he can prove himself over the summer, who knows.

4. Daley Blind

If both players were fully fit most of the time, I would have Smalling ahead of Blind on this list. But the injuries sustained by the former has often worked in Blind’s favour this season. I am a big fan of the Dutchman, and believe his best position is his current one, centre-back. He compliments Eric Bailly well, he is impressively calm and composed on the ball, and he is perhaps one of the most intelligent footballers United possess. While he doesn’t seem to be a vocal leader like Smalling might be, he often leads by example, and it is nice to have that sort of balance. Blind’s main issue is his inability to nail down a spot on the team sheet. It is not due to his performance levels, but due to the strength-in-depth Mourinho has at his disposal. Like Smalling, however, Blind can stake a claim over the summer given the opportunity.

3. Eric Bailly

This is perhaps a surprising choice, but one which I believe would fit perfectly. Bailly has had an impressive first term at United and looks to still be a few years off his prime. The 23-year-old is the first no-nonsense centre-half I’ve seen at Old Trafford since Nemanja Vidic, and would certainly get his teammates fired up with his crunching tackles and his towering headers. The Ivorian is the best defender at United, which eliminates any question marks over possible team selection. He also looks set to stay at United for several years, which adds stability and security to the cause. A reason not to select Bailly for captaincy would be his age and maturity. He sometimes gets carried away with himself, but he will only get better as time goes on. An outsider for the armband, but a perfect candidate in my eyes.

2. David De Gea

I was tempted to include de Gea in the ‘Honourable Mentions’ section, due to the ongoing transfer rumours surrounding the Spaniard. But because of the quality of the man, he is right up there for me. The goalkeeper has been included in the PFA Team of the Year for the last two years and has won back-to-back-to-back player of the year awards at United. He is as vocal as goalkeepers come and leads by example with his incredible saves. Like I said, the transfer rumours may cause hesitancy, but if United can keep hold of him, a captain in the making.

1. Ander Herrera

What a season this man has had. When Mourinho arrived in the summer, many including myself didn’t quite know where/how Herrera would fit into the plans of the boss. But not only has Mourinho integrated him into the team on a consistent basis, he has developed him into an outstanding defensive midfielder. The job we saw him do on Eden Hazard a couple of weeks ago was one Roy Keane would have been proud of, and it exemplified everything you want in a United captain. Passion, hunger, aggression, composure. Not to mention the pass that led up to Rashford’s goal. Herrera is the man for me, and I’m sure there are a lot of fans out there that think the same.

Written by Luke McNulty

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