As well as revamping the team and mentality at Manchester United, Louis van Gaal has also been tasked with the job of selecting a new club captain for this season.
United’s last captain, Nemanja Vidic, has departed to Inter Milan, while a former skipper, Rio Ferdinand, has moved on to QPR. The obvious choice to replace Vidic, Patrice Evra, has also left Old Trafford for Italian football with Juventus. Those three departures mean the next club captain isn’t as clear a choice as it would have been.
But van Gaal still has plenty of options to take over the captaincy, and further allowing for a progressive move. Though unlikely, we may even see the Dutch manager hand the armband to a younger figure in the squad, keeping in line with his history of placing responsibility and trust in youth.
With the new season less than two weeks away, here are five candidates who could be United’s next captain.
Regardless of his age, Robin van Persie makes the most sense to be the next Manchester United captain. The Dutchman has captained Arsenal and the Netherlands and therefore has the credentials to be considered the right fit.
The connection with Louis van Gaal also points to van Persie getting the nod over Wayne Rooney. Van Persie is widely considered the best player at the club, with his performances at the World Cup going a long way to erasing the doubts brought on last season.
The only stumbling block is the Dutchman’s fitness. Could his current setback in preparation for the start of the new season be a sign of things to come? It’s a factor van Gaal will need to take into account.
Wayne Rooney will captain Manchester United on the opening day of the season against Swansea. The England international has long been considered one of the front-runners for the captaincy, and due to his long history with the club and recent commitment to a long-term contract, it would make a lot of sense.
The downside is the negatives of Rooney’s time at Old Trafford, including his dips in form, his fitness issues, and the previous attempts to engineer a move away (or to gain a wage increase).
Whatever has happened in the past, though, Rooney is understandably one of the top candidates to skipper the club.
Louis van Gaal has a reputation of placing faith in youth, and it wouldn’t be too much of a shock to see him do so once again with regards to the Man United captaincy.
Phil Jones has already received high praise from previous United boss Alex Ferguson, and the former Blackburn centre-back is generally highly rated in the Premier League. He very much has the quality to be a captain of the club for many years to come.
Jones’ major problem is his fitness record. Last season he made only 26 Premier League appearances, while his best position is still up for debate, having performed at full-back and defensive midfield as well. In addition, Jones still has to undergo further developing before he can be considered the finished product.
Jones is an option, but for now an unlikely one.
Jonny Evans will be one to really benefit from the departures of both Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. Injuries to the latter two over the last few seasons have seen Evans perform regularly in the Manchester United first team, but there will be added responsibility on the shoulders of the Northern Irishman, currently being the most experienced of United’s central defensive unit.
Evans may not have the presence of others in the team and former captains, but he is a reliable figure who has proven to be an integral part of the setup at Old Trafford. With his consistency in recent times, and regardless of his own injury troubles, Evans would make a good, though surprise, captain.
As one of the older, experienced heads in the squad, Darren Fletcher makes sense as one of the candidates to be next United captain. The midfielder captained the side in two games during preseason, and is therefore likely on van Gaal shortlist of options.
But Fletcher is more than likely well down that list, largely due to his fitness worries and his long-term featuring in the team. The Scottish international has missed a lot of football in recent seasons, and that alone will force his name to be overlooked.
Had it not been for those injury concerns, however, Fletcher would have been a good choice to replace Vidic as club captain.