Louis van Gaal signalled Chris Smalling's new seniority at Manchester United when he announced that the defender has been confirmed as his "third captain."
Smalling, 25, will wear the United armband when Wayne Rooney, 29, and Michael Carrick are absent, and with 34-year-old Carrick in the last year of his contract he could be vice-captain next season.
Smalling established himself as Van Gaal's first-choice centre-back last season and signed a new four-year contract in April.
He has risen through the ranks as experienced figures like Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Darren Fletcher and Robin van Persie have left Old Trafford in the last 18 months.
Now Van Gaal is urging Smalling to improve as a leader, telling Sunday newspapers: "Smalling is now always the third captain, so when the other two are gone [he is captain]... but he has to develop himself as a captain, more and more."
United's centre-back options decreased on Saturday as Tyler Blackett was sent on a season-long loan to Celtic while Jonny Evans completed a permanent transfer to West Brom.
Meanwhile, Van Gaal also said he got a bargain when signing Matteo Darmian from Torino in July.
The Italy international right-back only cost £12.7 million, and Van Gaal is convinced he got value for money.
"Yes, I am very happy that you discovered this because I didn't read that when the deal was announced," he added.
"He was not a big player in Italy, he was a rising star. He is a late developer, but it is true, the market of a player is difficult to describe."