Has Matteo Darmian proven himself as Manchester United’s first choice left back?

In a season where Manchester United have found some of their best performers in a selection of a rather unsung heroes such as Marcos Rojo and Marouane Fellaini, another player who has certainly exceeded expectations this season has been no other than Matteo Darmian. The Italian has established himself as Mr reliable for Jose Mourinho as being utilised across the back line whether it being at right or left back, or even in the centre, the Italian has consistently put in solid displays and looks set for a well-deserved extension on his current contract

A player reborn under Mourinho

Despite initially impressing in his first season for the Reds under Louis van Gaal, Darmian certainly declined and found himself out of the picture in his second season and many expected him to be one the of first on the departure list prior to the arrival of Jose Mourinho.

After not playing any part in United’s opening nine league games, Darmian was however given a chance following the injury crisis experienced by United’s defence and thus provided as a perfect fit in the left back position. Despite looking rather unorthodox as a right footer on the left, the Italian excelled as without having much of an instinct to go forward, he was able to sit back and offer himself as an integral factor of a stable back four. His reluctance to go forward certainly contributed to United’s compact shape that Mourinho enjoys to enforce in games as Darmian was effectively rotated during the 25 unbeaten streak.

It probably shouldn’t come so much of a surprise to fans that Darmian has excelled under the man management of Mourinho, as undoubtedly he does hold all the right qualities that Mourinho likes in a player. A hard-working, defensively minded defender who doesn’t make any complaints to when he isn’t being played, the Italian has served as a great professional this season. Statistically speaking, Darmian also impresses on paper and United certainly benefit when he plays. In his 18 League games this season, Darmian has only been on the losing side once and has kept a tidy eight clean sheets in that time. Having won 86 duels, made 71 clearances and not having made a defence error in that time, Darmian really has stepped up when it has mattered and proven his worth as a very solid and reliable option at the back.

Should United look for a new left back?

Despite operating as a very solid defensive choice at the back, the counterpart to Darmian’s style of play is no doubt his inability to affect the game going forward. With just one assist in 26 games including a cross accuracy of just 21% in the league, there is no denying that Darmian is more of a defensive fullback as opposed to a modern-day attacking one.

Admittedly, as a right-footed left back it is naturally more difficult for the Italian to burst forward down the flank and whip a cross in, similar to how Valencia does on the right side but the lack of attacking support does negatively affect the likes of Martial and Lingard when they have no overlapping run. This does pose the question as to whether United should opt for a left back who finds the perfect balance of his defensive and offensive duties and perhaps more significantly, a left footed left back.

In most recent reports, United are rumoured to be in a head to head battle with neighbours City for the hot prospect Benjamin Mendy from Monaco. It would appear therefore that Mourinho is on the hunt for a new left-back and fans should, therefore, expect more speculation regarding this deal.


There is no denying that Darmian has proved himself as a very solid and reliable option for the left back slot but one must wonder if this is good enough for Manchester United. From the days of Patrice Evra and the small glimpses of Luke Shaw, it is fair to say that fans enjoy a good attacking full back down that side as a fullback that possesses an attacking instinct can nowadays be just as effective as a winger. From this perspective, I do believe United need to dip into the market to strengthen in this position.

Of course, the situation regarding a new left back does also hinder on Luke Shaw who has struggled since his horrific leg break and does seem to have a rather strained relationship with Mourinho himself. If Jose does have faith in the Englishman to be the future number one in this position than with the backup of Darmian and other alternatives such as Blind and Rojo, there would be certainly no need to spend money on a new left back.

Written by Joshua Gmerek-Iftakhar


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