Maguire, Rooney, Keane: Ranking Man United's captains in the Premier League era

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It didn’t take long for Harry Maguire to earn the captain’s armband at Manchester United.

Signed for £80 million in August 2019, the centre-back was officially named captain in January 2020, having already worn the armband on a number of occasions during the first half of the 2019/20 season.

“He's come in and been a leader in the group,” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said at the time, per United's website.

“I’ve been, not surprised, but I've been impressed by his leadership skills, so Harry will keep on wearing the armband.”

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Nine months on and Maguire’s leadership skills are now being brought into question following some low moments on and off the pitch.

Some United supporters wanted him to be stripped of the captaincy after he was arrested on the Greek island of Mykonos in the summer.

And Maguire’s performances at the start of the 2020/21 season have been heavily criticised, particularly his efforts in United’s humiliating 6-1 defeat to Tottenham on Sunday.

One moment that has drawn the ire of the club’s fans came when the 27-year-old failed to stick up for Marcus Rashford after the United attacker protested Anthony Martial’s early sending off.

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Ranking Man Utd captains in the PL era

It’s left us thinking about where Maguire ranks in the list of United’s captains in the Premier League era.

Hint: Not very high.

10. Harry Maguire (2020-present)

Yeah, that’s right. He’s the worst of the lot.

As you’ll come to see, some of United’s captains didn’t achieve much while wearing the armband.

But none of them were as disastrous as Maguire.

His arrest was an embarrassment for himself and the club, and he’s failed to deliver like fans would expect a player valued at £80m to.

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9. Ashley Young (2019-2020)

Young was made captain off the back of a disappointing 2018/19 season, much to the frustration of United supporters.

He had even been booed during the pre-season, before Solskjaer confirmed that he was the club’s new captain.

So the full-back was an unpopular choice for the armband and his decision to leave for Inter Milan in January 2020 proves it never was a great match.

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8. Antonio Valencia (2018-2019)

Valencia had previous experience with the armband, donning it for the 2017 Europa League win over Ajax, and was made captain by Jose Mourinho at the beginning of the 2018/19 campaign.

But the Ecuadorian struggled for fitness and only made nine appearances in all competitions before being released at the end of the season.

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7. Michael Carrick (2017-2018)

Carrick wouldn’t be so low down were we taking into account his entire body of work at United, but these rankings are based on each player’s time as captain.

And Carrick only made five appearances in charge, with the midfielder struggling with fitness issues in 2017/18. He did act as an off-field leader, though.

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6. Eric Cantona (1996-1997)

The enigmatic Frenchman was made captain for the 1996/97 season and it was a successful one, with United winning the Premier League title.

This was something of a risky choice by Sir Alex Ferguson, given that Cantona couldn’t always be relied upon to lead by example, but he was an inspiring figure and he ensured his final season at the club was a memorable one.

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5. Wayne Rooney (2014-2017)

Rooney was made skipper by Louis van Gaal and he went on to win the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Europa League with the armband.

Van Gaal cited Rooney’s “professionalism and his attitude to training” when he picked his new captain, and to win three trophies in some average United sides was a respectable accomplishment.

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4. Nemanja Vidic (2011-2014)

Serbian defender Nemanja Vidic took over as captain following Gary Neville’s retirement and won two Premier League titles in three seasons.

“You have to think about your responsibilities - your behaviour, the way you play, the way you train,” Vidic said about the role, per The Guardian. “I know that I need to set a good example on and off the pitch.”

Vidic was a fine captain but he upset some supporters when he signed a pre-contract agreement with Inter Milan midway through the 2013/14 season.

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3. Steve Bruce (1994-1996)

Bruce had the unenviable task of filling Bryan Robson’s shows following the midfielder’s departure in 1994, but he did a fine job.

The centre-back stepped up as a leader and guided United to a league and FA Cup double in 1995-96.

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2. Gary Neville (2005-2011)

The one-club man succeeded Roy Keane as United captain in 2005 and he ended up with it for six years.

Trophies continued to pour in - United won two Premier League titles, two League Cups and the Champions League while Neville was captain - although he would share the armband with Ryan Giggs in his final years at the club.

Neville began to have doubts about his suitability to the role when he found himself unable to play at a high level, but Ferguson kept him on as he valued the right-back’s leadership.

“I think me and Giggsy kept it for three or four years beyond that just purely because of the fact the camaraderie in the dressing room,” Neville told Sky Sports' The Football Show in April.

“We were the policemen if you like, the older statesmen. Sir Alex wanted to make sure the team came first. Even though I felt unworthy as a captain at that stage."

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1. Roy Keane (1997-2005)

Coming in at No.1 is, of course, Keane.

What Man United would give to have a player as passionate and committed as the Irishman right now.

He was Ferguson’s lieutenant on the field, ensuring that United were the most feared team in England around the turn of the millennium.

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Not only was he a warrior, but he was also a class footballer, too.

His display in the 1999 Champions League semi-final against Juventus was iconic. Keane dragged United to the final while knowing that a suspension would rule him out of their meeting with Bayern Munich.

In his eight years as captain, Keane won four Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the Champions League.

He was an exemplary skipper.

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