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Who could become the Manchester United club captain after Michael Carrick?

Manchester United captain Michael Carrick will hang up his boots this summer, becoming a coach under Jose Mourinho. A new club captain will need to be picked ahead of the new season, in which the club will be expected to challenge Manchester City for the Premier League crown. Carrick has played four times for United this season, a substitute appearance in the Premier League (24 minutes), 90 minutes in the Carabao Cup, and 180 minutes in the Emirates FA Cup.

The lack of appearances by Carrick, who had been sidelined with a heart condition earlier in the season, led to Mourinho using his vice-captain, Antonio Valencia for the majority of the season with the likes of David De Gea, Ashley Young, Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (now at LA Galaxy) and Chris Smalling wearing the armband at times during this season. This article will look at five candidates to lead the club forward next season, adding that leadership to the team which has been missed with Carrick on the sidelines.

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David De Gea

The Spanish number one is in magnificent form this season and remains ahead of Manchester City counterpart Ederson with 17 clean sheets in the Premier League, a likely candidate to win the Golden Gloves this season. De Gea also saw his clean sheet record in all competitions hit 21 this season, the most he has managed since becoming a United player back in the summer of 2011. De Gea is reportedly going to be offered a bumper new deal this summer, it would seem to be something he wants, overcoming the collapse of his Real Madrid move on deadline day in Spain in the summer of 2015. De Gea as captain would show him how thankful the club are that he has remained, also showing him how far he has come too.

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Antonio Valencia

The current vice-captain of Manchester United and the man who has captained the club for the majority of the season. Now, over the past few seasons, Valencia has been a great player for the club, especially after stepping up as the right-back, keeping Matteo Darmian out of the team, even after the Italian started well at the club. Valencia is not getting any younger and a replacement for him will need to be found, whether a player is brought in or promoted from with, remains to be seen. A capable captain but maybe not one who embodies the term leadership. Despite doing well this season, and others, being the clubs new captain would be short-lived as another will need to emerge after him. He will be the most-experienced player at the club this summer though.

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Chris Smalling

Now, he may not be a popular player amongst the fanbase, especially after lacking the defensive mind needed to occupy a place in the heart of Manchester United’s defence. However, he has performed recently with the morale of the club significantly raised after a long and tough season, scoring more goals in 2018 than Alvaro Morata. Smalling has been criticised, although most has been justified. Smalling has been picked time and time again by Mourinho recently, showing that he is a player who the manager relies upon. Whether that continues is another matter, especially after this summer. The fact Smalling has stood in as captain at times, with his experience could see him becoming the club captain, although he is not my first choice.

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Paul Pogba

The Frenchman returned to the Theatre of Dreams in the summer of 2016 for £89 million. Many have suggested that he is a waste of money, that he does not score the amount of goals a player of that amount should score, some (Garth Crooks) even state that he needs to be a bit more like Fernandinho to be a competent defensive midfielder – which makes me wonder why Crooks is even employed as this is something Pogba is not. This season has not been the best one for Pogba, suffering a long-term injury, then being suspended, then dropped for a lack of performance but more recently, he has started to emerge as the player many wanted to see from the start. Pogba has scored six goals and assisted 11 times this season, so far, showing his true class as a midfielder.

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Ander Herrera

The Spanish midfielder is a fan favourite at the Theatre of Dreams and is a useful player to have in the squad. This season has not been the best for him, in terms of breaking into the team after a spate of injuries, which hit the midfield on occasion seeing the likes of Scott McTominay brought into the team, at seemingly the right time. Herrera is a player who the opposition look to as a villain as he is the type of player to push for a reaction, not afraid to tackle or even take one for the team. Now, a captain needs to be grounded, a player who does not react, apparently, even though Roy Keane was a great captain and he could react in an empty room, at times. Herrera has just 12-months left at the club this summer so making him captain could depend on his future at United.

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Romelu Lukaku

The Belgian has been one of the stand-out players for the club this season, scoring 27 goals in all competitions before his early substitution against Arsenal last weekend, which looks set to keep him out of action for the foreseeable future, with Jose Mourinho suggested he could be back in time for the Emirates FA Cup final against Chelsea in a fortnight. Lukaku has led the team from the front this season, despite being criticised by the ever-knowing fan base on Twitter who suggested he was not the player United needed. Fast forward nine months and Lukaku is exactly the player United needed. I don’t think Mourinho will pick him to be the captain next season but he is certainly a contender in my eyes.

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