The word ‘leader’ has always been synonymous of being Manchester United captain. However, that hasn’t been the case since the departure of Wayne Rooney to Everton in the summer of 2017. Jose Mourinho handed Antonio Valencia the armband, but that never seemed to be the right choice.
Valencia, of course, is a highly experienced player and is currently in his testimonial year. Despite this, his lack of knowledge in the English language and inability to stamp his mark on the side has somewhat made his tenure as captain of the club underwhelming.
The club captaincy is vital and sets a precedent and the level that the team should aspire to reach. That was something that captains over the history of United have echoed with vigour and passion. Who could forget Roy Keane’s never say die spirit in the 99 Champions League campaign, and Gary Neville’s love for the club; these are the things that the next captain must aspire to achieve.
With Antonio Valencia likely to depart the club at the end of the season after falling out of favour under both Mourinho, and the likely full-time manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who could replace the Ecuadorian as the next captain? Here are the outstanding choices.
The French World Cup winner could be the ideal candidate for United. Pogba has rediscovered his fine form under the stewardship of Solskjaer, and despite being stripped of the captaincy under the last regime, the Norwegian has left the door open for Pogba to captain United once again. Solskjaer has always stated that he believes Pogba is a future United captain, and after all, nobody knows the midfielder better than the Scandinavian.
Solskjaer was the manager when Pogba was showing all his potential in his reserves days at United, so if anyone knows how to get the best out of him, Ole is the man. That has been shown in his form since the managerial change. No player in the Premier League has been involved in more goals than the World Cup winner. He has scored eight goals and gained six assists. Jose stripped the midfielder of the captaincy because of a well-documented breakdown in the relationship, but with Solskjaer that doesn’t seem likely, so maybe it’s time for the Frenchman to come of age in the United midfield.
If there is any player in the United side that lives and breathes the traditions of this wonderful club, it’s Herrera. The Spaniard is a fantastic player, with a brilliant attitude and would run through walls for the team; no matter who the manager is. Ever since the Spanish international was brought to the club in 2014, he has played a vital role in every significant success that the club has had.
Herrera’s vision ensured Anthony Martial was clear on goal to score the winner in extra time of the FA Cup semi-final against Everton. While he played a crucial role in isolating Ajax’s flair players in the Europa League final; meaning that he is a man for the big occasion, something that is a desirable trait in any potential United captain. The final in Stockholm saw United enter as heavy favourites, but Herrera’s tenacity in Mourinho’s defensive tactics ensured a cagey European final win and a man of the match accolade for his performance. In his post-match interview he dedicated the win to the victims in the Manchester bombings just a few days before; showing that he understands the city, just as much as the club. Herrera would be an outstanding choice should he be a frequent part of the manager’s plans for the season.
The key aspect that has to be considered for any potential candidate would be to consider how frequent the player will be appearing. With De Gea, it’s safe to say he will feature in every game when he is fit. The Spaniard is the best goalkeeper in the world and only continues to improve season on season. The club is extremely fortunate to have such a high-calibre player and offering the captaincy to the Madrid born goalie, could be a good incentive to ensure that the stopper signs a new contract.
It could be argued that nobody has done more for United than Spain’s number one over recent seasons, with De Gea almost single-handedly ensuring United’s finishes in the Champions League positions. His importance to the team can never be understated. With De Gea, United remain close to a team that could compete for major honours. However, if United were to lose him, the Red Devils would be miles away from being able to compete for the Premier League title. He holds all the characteristics that are needed for a good captain and has shown all of them since his debut for the club in 2011.