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Why Antonio Valencia Is The Logical Choice To Be Named Manchester United's Next Captain

22/06/2017 17:10 BST | Updated 22/06/2017 17:10 BST
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​Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is likely to have a big decision to make ahead of the new season with regard to who will wear the captain's armband and lead the team in 2017/18 and beyond.

The signs point towards incumbent skipper Wayne Rooney leaving the club this summer, although exactly where remains to be seen at this moment in time, while current vice-captain Michael Carrick, who will celebrate his 36th birthday next month, will likely play a lesser role as the team is gradually weaned off the veteran's consistent dependability on the pitch.

A number of players were chosen by Mourinho to captain United during 2016/17, including Marouane Fellaini at one point - rewarded by the manager for his loyalty and top class attitude. Ashley Young was another, while Juan Mata was also given the honour, flying in the face of previous rumours that Mourinho would dispense with him as he did at Chelsea.

Goalkeeper David de Gea was briefly United captain in the closing stages of a League Cup game against Ipswich in 2015 when Louis van Gaal was manager, and Chris Smalling was a regular pick for the Dutchman, although his days at Old Trafford could soon be over.

A large number of supporters over the last 12 months have championed Ander Herrera as the next club captain. The tenacious Spaniard has a special relationship with United and the fans and has consistently shown tremendous leadership qualities since moving into a deeper role.

Herrera has added tactical discipline to his game, clearly loves the club - think back to the way he recently spoke about his memories of first playing at Old Trafford in 2012 - and always has the back of every team-mate. Also he sets a fine example off the pitch and has an insatiable desire to win.

He has appears quite reluctant, though.

"I am very thankful when I hear from the fans but, we say in Spain, they are massive words," he told ESPN in May ahead of the Europa League final.

"The captains of this club are legends. The current one is Wayne Rooney but also Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs, Nemanja Vidic. It is a list of amazing players and legends. I prefer to keep calm and to keep my mind calm because I feel that I still have to do more for the club."

Besides pushing players who have been around longer than he has into consideration, Herrera has also previously specified that he thinks United's captain ought to be English in the same way that Spanish pair Sergio Ramos and Andres Iniesta captain Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively.

That may not be too feasible when one considers who is left that fits the criteria: Phil Jones? Jesse Lingard? Luke Shaw?...Marcus Rashford? Maybe one day for the youngster, but not now.

To move back to the point about those who have been at United for a long time and have 'earned their stripes', so to speak, there aren't many who've been at Old Trafford longer than Antonio Valencia. In fact, after Rooney and Carrick he is actually the club's current longest serving player.

Valencia has been at United since the summer of 2009 when he arrived from Wigan Athletic in a £16m deal that was completed shortly after Cristiano Ronaldo left the club for Real Madrid. As a winger, many even viewed the Ecuadorian as United's replacement for the superstar.

Having enjoyed a superb first season and recovered from a horrific broken leg suffered in the early stages of his second year, Valencia was then voted United's Players' Player of the Year at the annual club awards for the 2011/12 campaign. And then came his change into a full-back role.

It was Sir Alex Ferguson who first experimented with it, but it was Louis van Gaal who made it a permanent feature of Valencia's game. Jose Mourinho, too, has stuck with it, and after learning the intricacies of being a defender, the transition is now complete and the 31-year-old stacks up as one of the very best full-backs anywhere in the Premier League. So much so that he was once again voted Players' Player of the Season in 2016/17 by his United colleagues.

Despite being widely earmarked by the media for a swift exit once Mourinho took charge last May, Valencia quickly became an integral part of the new manager's plans. He was made captain for half of a pre-season game against former club Wigan - Mourinho's first game of any kind - and then led the team the team out in another friendly against Borussia Dortmund later that same month.

Valencia was back in the captain's role come the end of the season too, donning the armband in the Europa League against Celta Vigo and then again in the final against Ajax in Stockholm - Mourinho's man for the very biggest game of the season when the likes of Smalling, Mata, Herrera, and even star signing Paul Pogba were all in the starting line-up.

Valencia is the quiet and measured leader type, one who will motivate his team-mates by putting in a solid shift of his own and setting a good example for others to follow rather than giving a rousing team talk or shouting instructions all over the field.

He's been there and done it for United in a way that not too many others in the current squad have given the level of change at the club in recent seasons and was recently rewarded with a new contract that could see him stay put until at least 2019.

He is clearly popular and very well respected within the squad and there simply isn't anybody better to captain Manchester United next season than Antonio Valencia.