Wednesday 22 November 2017

Where does Roy Keane rate in Manchester United's last 10 captains?

Roy Keane and Alex Ferguson with one of many trophies at Old Trafford
Roy Keane and Alex Ferguson with one of many trophies at Old Trafford

From Robson to Neville and Keane to Rooney there have been some great United captains and some not so great. But who was the best?

10. Willie Morgan (1973-75)

Morgan took over from George Graham halfway through the 1973-74 relegation season; then played a significant role in helping them back, only to lose his place to Steve Coppell before moving on to Burnley.

Ray Wilkins (1982)

Handed the captaincy as Martin Buchan faded from the first-team picture, Wilkins ended up being a short-term appointment. Manager Ron Atkinson quickly handed the role to Bryan Robson, who had been his captain at West Brom.

8. Wayne Rooney (2014-present)

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney celebrates at full time with teammates Action Images via Reuters / Carl Recine

Rooney’s influence during more than a decade at Old Trafford is unquestioned, but he became captain at a time when his powers appeared to be in decline, and has yet to lift a trophy since taking on the role.

7. Eric Cantona (1996-97)

An iconic player at Old Trafford, Cantona was captain for just a season after Steve Bruce left for Birmingham. The Frenchman enjoyed his elder statesman status as United won the 1997 Premier League title, but he was unable to guide them to the Champions League final and retired that summer.

6. Gary Neville (2005-11)

A passionate one-club man, Neville provided inspiration from off the pitch as he recovered from the bad ankle injury that caused him to miss the 2008 Champions League final win over Chelsea.

5. Nemanja Vidic (2011-14)

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Vidic has retired from football

Vidic is fondly remembered at Old Trafford for his fearsome presence, and for forming a superb central defensive partnership with the classy Rio Ferdinand. The Serbia international also led United to their record-breaking 19th league title in 2011, as well as the 20th, two years later.

4. Martin Buchan (1975-82)

Scotland international Buchan led United back from the doldrums of the mid-1970s, when they briefly fell into the Second Division. During the tough-tackling centre-back’s seven years as captain, United once again became one of the country’s top clubs. He lifted the FA Cup in 1977, and served until 1982, when he passed on the job first to Ray Wilkins, and then to Bryan Robson.

3. Roy Keane (1997-2005)

Outspoken and fiercely committed, Keane could be inspirational and controversial; he dragged United to a 1999 Champions League semi-final victory over Juventus more or less on his own, despite knowing he would miss the final through suspension. His 2001 challenge on Manchester City’s Alf Inge Haaland remains a significant black mark, though.

2. Steve Bruce (1992-1996 – role shared with Bryan Robson until 1994)

Replacing Bryan Robson as United captain was an almighty responsibility; it is to centre-back Bruce’s great credit that he managed the transition so well, leading the 1994 Dream Team to the club’s first league and FA Cup double, then repeating the feat two years later.

1. Bryan Robson (1982-94 – role shared with Steve Bruce from 1992)

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Bryan Robson of Manchester United and Manager Alex Ferguson celebrate after their victory in the FA Cup Final against Crystal Palace at Wembley Stadium in 1990

Other Manchester United captains have won more trophies, but none has provided such an inspiration. There were times during the 1980s when it seemed as though Robson was United; few who saw it will forget the way he led them to an astonishing European Cup Winners’ Cup victory over Diego Maradona’s Barcelona in 1984.

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