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Carrick a United stopgap as captain with Pogba and Herrera waiting

Former Manchester United defender Phil Neville says Michael Carrick has all the tools to succeed as captain.

Michael Carrick is the obvious choice as Manchester United's next captain.

He's been at Old Trafford for more than a decade and he's won everything there is. He's not a shouter, like United's last No.16 Roy Keane, but Jose Mourinho will have known that already.

The United manager will want him to lead by example, both on and off the pitch. He has been doing it most of his career anyway.

"I will speak when I need to speak," Carrick said after the announcement. "But I am quite laid back and chilled out really. I will try to lead by example."

But Mourinho will also know that Carrick, at nearly 36, will miss more games than he plays next season.

Last term he started fewer than half of United's 64 matches. He didn't start a Premier League game until November and was on the bench for both the EFL Cup final and Europa League final. You imagine he will only slip further down the pecking order if Mourinho gets Eric Dier or Nemanja Matic this summer.

It means Mourinho will have to pick someone else to take the armband most weeks. At least he has plenty of options. Chris Smalling has done the job before after being promoted to one of the dressing room leaders by Louis van Gaal. Antonio Valencia was captain for the Europa League final and David De Gea is a regular starter and a senior player. Ander Herrera is a fans favourite, but said in an interview in May he didn't think he was ready for the responsibility.

Paul Pogba is a big personality within the squad -- he even played a part in bringing Romelu Lukaku to Old Trafford -- but he's only been back at the club for a year and there's an added responsibility that comes with being captain he probably doesn't need. Not yet anyway.

It leaves Carrick as the only real option, even if it means it's more of a ceremonial role than anything else.

It won't be the first time.

Gary Neville only played occasionally towards the end of his time as club captain. Nemanja Vidic missed nearly a year with a knee ligament injury after taking over from Neville in 2011. Wayne Rooney got the job when Vidic left in 2014 and was a regular until losing his place in the team in September. He watched most of his last six months as captain from the bench.

Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba have claims to be Manchester United's long-term captain.

The role is different now to the one Bryan Robson or Steve Bruce knew. It's not just about having the last word in the tunnel before a game or picking which end to attack first. United's captains front commercial campaigns and speak to hundreds of different media outlets when things aren't going well.

It can be time consuming and stressful. In it's own way, it's a big job -- although a cricket captain would probably disagree.

Carrick has called it a "special position".

"It feels great and it is such a huge honour to captain such a great club. It is my 12th year now and I came as a 25-year-old," he said.

"I never thought I could be here for so long and achieve so much.

"Now, to lead the boys and look after the young boys, to guide them in some ways, it is a nice thing and a real pleasure. I came to this club as a footballer and I am now a huge fan.

"I have grown to love the club over the years and to be in this position is very special for me."

Yet Mourinho could still find himself looking for another new captain this time next year. Carrick cannot go on forever and it may turn out to be a short-term arrangement.

If nothing else, it buys Mourinho time. Time for Herrera to feel like he's ready. Or time for Pogba to mature into a leader.

The most senior player in the dressing room and a good example to boot, Carrick was the only real choice to succeed Rooney. Even if it's only to lay the groundwork for United's next long-term captain.

Rob is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.


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