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Mark Payne Manchester Utd Posted by Mark Payne
Jul 22, 2014

De Gea as Man United's captain?

Manchester United might have slipped to seventh place in the Premier League last season, but it was United players who scored more goals than any other Premier League club in Brazil, leading the way with nine.

Pasadena is a part of the California belt that formed the base for American operations in the Pacific during the Second World War. Some 75 years later, it is playing host to Manchester United and their new general as he attempts to come up with a battle plan for the coming season.

On Thursday, supporters will see Louis van Gaal's first Manchester United team selection, and it promises to be intriguing.

Initially, Van Gaal will be looking for the players who will take him through to the international break in early September. It already has been established that large swathes of the playing staff effectively are on trial, but it isn't just the men in the red shirts who need to be on their toes.

As much as anybody else, this will be the time when Ryan Giggs has to impress. Giggsie's role is a complex one at present; he will need to be the go-between among old players and new management. In addition, he will be engaged as a pupil at the feet of Van Gaal's no-nonsense coaching school.

As Van Gaal has only a limited knowledge of teams like Swansea, Sunderland and Burnley, this is Giggs' opportunity to show his experience and worth. Nobody wants the club's most decorated player to become an overblown coaching mascot, and the new boss will be looking to the Welshman in these early days to see what he has got.

A former colleague from Ajax, David Endt, reminisced recently about how Van Gaal used to ask players at Amsterdam club to talk to the squad about the upcoming opposition. This had the effect of encouraging everybody to study forthcoming opponents and kept people focused. Giggs may well be put on the spot in a similar fashion.

The team United put out on Thursday will contain two important markers. Firstly, the centre-back pairing will be crucial. The new coach will be looking into the eyes of men like Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Johnny Evans to see if they have the necessary minerals. My guess is that Jones and Evans represent the best pairing.

Young David De Gea might make the most sense as Manchester United's captain.

With Luke Shaw too young to even remember Bruce and Pallister and Patrice Evra departing for Juventus, Jones and Rafael suddenly become the most experienced defenders in the squad. This is an area of the team United need sorted early if they are to have a tilt at the title.

Secondly, the location of the armband will be searched for feverishly. Van Gaal was very clear in his first news conference when he stated that every player was a possible captain. Few, though, expect the honour to be bestowed on anybody other than Robin van Persie.

With Van Persie still on holiday after his exploits in Brazil, you can bet that Wayne Rooney has been running around trying to impress. Other than United's No. 10 and No. 20, it is hard to think of anybody else who is an automatic first pick in the team. Until the simplest solution is found, it could be David De Gea.

De Gea was the club's best performer last time out and is guaranteed to be in the lineup for the majority of the games. Van Persie tends to be injured, and giving the role either to him or Rooney potentially upsets the other. De Gea would be an excellent choice of club captain.

Manchester United supporters are fond of debating the best men to lead the line and are experienced at bemoaning their lack of midfield prowess. However, when the team takes the field against L.A. Galaxy in Pasadena, it is the defence that might provide clues to United's prospects this season. Van Gaal has some big decisions to make.

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