Roy Keane helped Manchester United deliver some of their most memorable moments during his time as captain, but some eight men have worn the armband as ‘permanent’ skipper in the 18 years since his departure.
Keane was tasked with captaining United for eight years under Sir Alex Ferguson, with that period including the famous Treble success in the 1998-99 season. While the Ireland international missed the Champions League final through suspension, his input that season can’t be overlooked.
His exit came hot on the heels of a brutal MUTV segment in which he tore into multiple members of United’s squad. Keane was denied a proper farewell, having struggled with injury in his final United season, and retired in 2006 after a brief stint with Celtic.
The 18 years that followed have seen United go through several managers and even more skippers. There was a continuity of sorts before Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, but a lot of movement has followed in the decade since.
Bruno Fernandes currently has the honour, and the Portugal international will want to pass the two-and-a-quarter-year average tenure of those to wear the armband since Keane moved on. Here, Mirror Football takes a closer look at that octet, ranking them from worst to best.
8. Ashley Young
England international Young did plenty for United during close to a decade at Old Trafford but didn’t even last a season as captain. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave the former Watford and Aston Villa man the armband at the start of the 2019-20 season, but he was gone by
Young may have felt he needed to move for first-team football after losing his starting spot at United, and minutes elsewhere have arguably vindicated his decision. This season, at the age of 38, he is already close to matching the number of Premier League minutes he racked up in that final half-season with United.
7. Antonio Valencia
Another long-serving star with a brief period as skipper, Valencia had spent close to a decade with United before taking over as permanent captain in 2018. He was de facto skipper in his penultimate season, but injuries limited his involvement in his final campaign.
The Ecuadorian wore the armband for some big victories in the 2017-18 campaign, including a memorable 3-2 win against Manchester City in April. He made just six appearances the following year, though, with the last of them coming from the bench in a limp defeat against Cardiff.
6. Michael Carrick
Valencia’s 2017-18 run as captain came while official skipper Carrick was out injured. Carrick captained United for the first time in Ferguson’s final game in charge, a 5-5 draw with West Bromwich Albion, and wore the armband sporadically under Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho made Carrick captain on a permanent basis ahead of the 2017-18 season, but the former Spurs and West Ham star barely featured due to heart problems. Nevertheless, he led the side out in the final game of that season – his only league start of the campaign – as United claimed a 1-0 victory over Watford.
5. Harry Maguire
It was Maguire who took over the captaincy after Young left for Inter. The centre-back had only been at Old Trafford for a few months, joining from Leicester the previous summer, but was backed by then-manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
In his first full season as captain, Maguire helped United reach the Europa League final. His next two seasons were far less successful, though, with United posting their worst-ever Premier League points tally in 2021-22 – with Solskjaer sacked off the back of Maguire’s red card in a chastening defeat at Watford – and then Maguire losing his starting spot under Erik ten Hag.
Maguire was linked with a summer exit after losing the captaincy to Bruno Fernandes. Instead, though, he has stuck around and shown there’s life after that kind of blow.
4. Bruno Fernandes
The jury is still out on United’s current captain, with positives and negatives. His suitability was questioned last season, especially during a 7-0 defeat at Liverpool, but on-field contributions have won some critics over.
Keane was one of those critics, saying: “The one thing I would do, after today having watched him again, I would definitely take the captaincy off him, 100 per cent. I know it was a big decision to change the captaincy with (Harry) Maguire.