Darren Fletcher and Wayne Rooney
Fletcher and Rooney have captained United in four of their five pre-season games.

Wayne Rooney and Darren Fletcher have returned from Manchester United's pre-season tour of the United States as Louis van Gaal's leading candidates to start the season as the club's new captain.

Fletcher has skippered United three times against LA Galaxy, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, while Rooney took the armband for the final friendly against Liverpool on Monday. Tom Cleverley captained United against Roma.

Both Fletcher and Rooney collected the International Champions Cup trophy after the 3-1 win over Liverpool, while the 28-year old came in for special praise from Van Gaal – who hinted he preferred having an Englishman at the helm.

"I am always looking for opportunities to give players the captain's armband. Today Rooney played 90 minutes for the first time," Van Gaal said.

"Fletcher had already done it two times, and then he was the captain, and Tom Cleverley, because he also had 90 minutes. I think you have choose, when it is possible, for the English style. That is when it is possible.

"He [Rooney, man of the match against Liverpool] is a man who is always a winner. You saw in the World Cup, when the award went to Messi, it is not always like that.

"It was deserved for him [Rooney] because he scored a lot of goals and made a lot of assists. The judges are always looking for that."

Jonny Evans and Robin van Persie are among the other candidates however both have lost ground to Fletcher and Rooney during pre-season.

Van Persie was the Netherlands captain during the World Cup finals under Van Gaal and was expected to be considered, however, his return to first-team activities is expected to be delayed after being forced to undergo a personal training plan.

It leaves Fletcher and Rooney as the leading contenders to become the permanent skipper after the departure of Nemanja Vidic to Inter Milan. Both players have a combined 22 years of experience at United during which time they have won 19 major honours at Old Trafford.

Scotland international Fletcher has seen his career damaged in recent years by a bowel condition but continues to rebuild his career after undergoing surgery to correct the problem in January 2013.

Rooney meanwhile has been a mainstay of the United team since joining from Everton in 2004 and sporadically captained the club under both Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes.

Asked in March whether he would relish the armband following Vidic's exit, Rooney said: "I've done it a few times and I would have no problem with that. I would take it with both hands.

"I think, whether you've got the armband or not, I always feel I'm quite vocal on the pitch. I try to help the players when I feel I can and say what I think.

"I believe that's the most important thing, to be honest and say what you feel. If you say what you believe are the right things, you need to keep doing that."