After such a near brush with relegation, everyone’s position at the club is under scrutiny, including the captain’s armband. With current skipper Fabricio Coloccini’s future once again up in the air, we have a look at five alternatives:
The 25-year-old midfielder has been a consistent performer in United’s engine room since his move from bitter rivals Sunderland last summer. Colback even did enough to catch the eye of England manager Roy Hodgson, who called him up for the matches against Norway and Switzerland in September, however a calf injury forced the Killingworth-born midfielder to return home.
Being a local lad, Colback’s main strength if selected for the captaincy would be transmitting to his teammates the passion required to play for United and – more importantly – the significance of the Tyne-Wear derby. However, while you cannot fault his genuine enthusiasm for the club, there are questions marks whether Colback is vocally loud enough for the role.
Quickly becoming a fan favourite amongst the Toon Army, Janmaat impressed both offensively and defensively last season. The 25-year-old right-back also showed his willingness to sacrifice his personal needs for the team, filling in at centre-back on three occasions. Like Colback, the Dutch international was a consistent performer for United – his red card against Leicester the only blip on his record.
Fans also noted that it was Janmaat who more often than not took on media duties during United’s alarming slump in the second-half of the season; with Coloccini frequently opting to shun reporters. The former Feyernood defender speaks well of the club and appears to be one of the most vocal players in the dressing room, however with no previous experience of wearing the armband, could Janmaat handle the pressure?
A player who lit up the Premier League when he first arrived on Tyneside, Sissoko’s performances has since been a mixed bag. Dubbed by some as the “French Yaya Toure”, fans are very much split as to what his best position actually is – defensive midfield? Right wing? Number 10? The truth is Sissoko is yet to truly excel in one role for United.
He was handed the armband on a number of occasions last season when Coloccini was absent, but the lack of clarity over his own future makes him a risk. With media reports linking Sissoko to the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, in addition to his own comments of wanting to play Champions League football, his time at St James’ Park could be coming to an end.
Siem de Jong
Instantly named vice-captain when brought to the club last summer by former boss Alan Pardew, big things were expected from De Jong. However, a serious thigh injury followed by a collapsed lung meant the 26-year-old was restricted to just four appearances for United. Fans were treated to small glimpses of his potential, most notably his well taken strike against Swansea.
The former Ajax man clearly has an influence behind the scenes, with McClaren already labelling him as a “difference maker”. The most obvious and major problem with handing De Jong the captaincy though, is whether he can stay injury-free for long enough.
You could argue that there aren’t any genuine leaders in United’s dressing room at the moment, with players going missing all too often last season. The two inept performances against Sunderland immediately spring to mind, as well as the amount of goals conceded.
Bringing in a ready-made captain could just be the thing which breathes new life into a fragmented squad. However, a new arrival would have to earn the respect of the existing players very quickly or the dressing room may end up even more divided.