Man Utd captain: Six candidates to replace Harry Maguire as skipper, including Bruno Fernandes

The defender was stripped of the Manchester United captaincy over the weekend, and there are plenty of options to wear the armband in 2023/24.
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If the Manchester United players returned to pre-season wondering whether Erik ten Hag would change his approach from last term, those questions were immediately answered by the Dutchman.

In his first campaign at Old Trafford, Ten Hag quickly established a no-nonsense aura and a reputation as a firm disciplinarian. That approach was tested on several occasions in 2022/23, predominantly by the juvenile antics of Cristiano Ronaldo, but Ten Hag also punished Alejandro Garnacho and Marcus Rashford for a lack of punctuality, while United’s players infamously were forced to run eight and a half miles following the 4-0 loss to Brentford in August.

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Maguire was dropped from the side in the aftermath of that defeat and, nearly a year on, that steely treatment from Ten Hag was evident again at the weekend. The centre-back, like all of those involved in international fixtures over June, returned to Carrington on Saturday for the first day of pre-season training. Yet Maguire departed with the knowledge he was no longer United skipper, a role he has held since January 2020.

The ruthless - yet undeniable just - treatment of Maguire raises questions about the 30-year-old’s future, especially as he has fallen to fifth choice at the heart of defence. But it also sparks a dilemma about who should succeed him as skipper.

Bruno Fernandes is the obvious candidate as he wore the armband during Maguire’s repeated absences from the team last season. The Portugal international captained United on 42 occasions last term, just over two thirds of the club’s matches.

Fernandes is preparing for his fifth season as a United player, never shirks responsibility, has proved repeated match-changing moments for the Red Devils and would be a popular choice with the United dressing room. Yet there remains a tinge of ill-discipline in the midfielder’s game, and his penchant for moaning at team-mates isn’t a trait best suited for a captain.

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An ideal skipper should demonstrate composure, have an enviable collection of winner’s medals and can see the game in front of him from a deeper role. Those are qualities all embodied by Casemiro, albeit he’s been a United player for less than a year and isn’t yet a fluent English speaker. The Brazilian’s record for picking up suspensions is also far from desirable.

Casemiro’s ex-Real Madrid team-mate Raphael Varane ticks a number of the same boxes, even if he has struggled with injuries during his time in Manchester. The Frenchman was selected as skipper for last week’s friendly win over Leeds United and is a good English speaker. Fellow centre-back Lisandro Martinez may be among the contenders as well, and there is no denying his leadership qualities, even if he can be a tad reckless.

Another candidate is sure to be Marcus Rashford, a player whose courageous actions extend beyond the football pitch. A Manucian and boyhood red who has been a first-team member for over seven years, the attacker’s appointment as skipper would be well received by fans. Rashford’s goal exploits help his cause, while he has captained the side before. Yet Ten Hag never selected United’s no.10 to wear the armband last season, while his offensive position and quiet demeanour don’t lend themselves to being a captain.

Luke Shaw is another who could be considered, and he is one of the few players remaining from the Louis van Gaal era. The left-back has overcome personal adversity since joining the club, has developed into a dependable, well-rounded player, and has fronted up to media questions in the past after chastening losses. Shaw looks like an outside bet, however, and rarely does a captain play in the wide areas.

For now, Fernandes will remain the favourite to replace Maguire, but the 28-year-old will know there is no shortage of potential alternatives for Ten Hag to select from.

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