The role of club captain has become massively understated in recent years. The club captain is meant to not only be the manager’s voice on the field but also the club’s face leading by example.
The masterful Thierry Henry would inspire Arsenal with magical performances whilst Roy Keane’s fighting spirit and sheer will to win could raise the morale of any disheartened player, a perfect example being the 1999 Champions League semi final where Keane dragged United back from 2-0 down in to a 3-2 victory in Turin grabbing a goal and even after being carded, meaning he would miss the final, his head did not drop rather he continued his fight ensuring he completed the job he started at the first whistle.
Last season Arsenal’s William Gallas showed how important the captain is to his team when comments he made in the media had an adverse affect on dressing room morale and Arsene Wenger duly stripped him of the captaincy.
Having strong leaders has never been a problem at Old Trafford with the likes of Denis Law, Sir Bobby Charlton, Bryan Robson, Steve Bruce, Eric Cantona and Roy Keane all wearing the armband at some point.
After Keane’s departure in 2005 Gary Neville was named as the new club captain (becoming the first Greater Manchester born captain since 1960) but injuries have plagued his reign thus begging the question do United need a new captain?
Some will immediately say that Neville is United through and through and his influence extends far beyond his on field presence whilst others will argue that if he isn’t playing then he should not wear the arm band as lifting trophies in May having not played seems a hollow gesture, beneath a player of Gary Neville’s quality.
In the 2007-2008 season, with Gary Neville out, Rio Ferdinand found himself skippering the side and rose to the occasion having the best season of his career which culminated in him jointly lifting the Champions League trophy with Ryan Giggs in Moscow. If United did find themselves looking for a new captain he would be the first choice having the experience already.
Another possible candidate for the role is the reborn Darren Fletcher. A few years ago such a suggestion would have seemed laughable but now the Scotland captain is repaying the faith Sir Alex Ferguson showed in him with the kind of performances Fergie must have known he was capable of. Some are still sceptical of the Scot but must realise if this is just a purple patch he is going through, then it has lasted for over a year!
Sir Alex Ferguson recently ruled Wayne Rooney out of the running for the armband in the immediate future as he prefers defender or midfielders to lead his team (Eric Cantona is the obvious exception but Eric has always been a bit special) but it is an inevitable that the Scouser will one day lead United (yes you did read right, plus he was from the blue side of the city) and would probably be the preferred choice amongst United fans as he embodies everything the club stands for on field: skill, desire and flair.
Whatever the opinion is, it is very unlikely that United will just strip Neville of the arm band especially as United have not suffered in the past 2 seasons as he played the role of captain in recess, rather they have enjoyed success both domestically and in Europe so why would Fergie change a good thing?