Captain Harry Maguire will be made to work for his place in the Manchester United XI as just “one of” the team’s leaders, according to manager Erik ten Hag.
Maguire has been the United captain since January 2020, having been one of the first names on the teamsheet for much of his time at Old Trafford.
But that is no longer the case after a tough start to the season, failing to impress in defeats to Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford.
Maguire played alongside new signing Lisandro Martinez in those defeats, with his team-mate also coming in for criticism.
However, Martinez stood out against Liverpool on Monday as he kept his place at Maguire’s expense, with Raphael Varane brought in.
Ten Hag appears to determined to keep faith with Martinez, and for now Varane is ahead of Maguire in the pecking order, too.
“I think it doesn’t mean when you are captain you are established to play always, especially when you also have Varane in your squad,” Ten Hag explained.
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“We have a leader group and Harry is one of them. Bruno [Fernandes] is one of them.
“Bruno did quite well as captain [against Liverpool]. He led by example and he brings so much energy to the team in and out of possession.”
Maguire will get his opportunities, though, with United involved in four competitions in a season that will be disrupted by the World Cup break.
“We have options,” Ten Hag said “Varane, his stature is immense, and in pre-season we took a decision to build him physically, so he had a bit of a slow start.
“His profile, his stature and what he won already in the past shows he can really contribute to his team. For the team, there is competition, and we need that. We have to cover so many games.
“Victor Lindelof did really well in pre-season, so I am happy that he will be back in the squad, so we will have another option.
“We have competition internally, and that’s good. That is what top teams need.”