With Eric Bailly out injured and Chris Smalling out of sorts in recent weeks, Marcos Rojo has seemingly earned a lifeline back into Jose Mourinho’s first-team plans.
Despite initially starting at United as a centre-half, Louis van Gaal’s preference of duo Smalling and Daley Blind pushed Rojo to left back – a role that has earned him 52 caps for Argentina.
But why is he considered a fullback? The Argentine lacks pace, nor any attacking threat, never mind being a poor defensively; often being caught of his position this season.
In fact, with a full complement of defensive options, youngsters Luke Shaw and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (currently on loan at Wolverhampton Wanderers) should be given the nod before Rojo. Quite simply, if considered a left back, Rojo is deadweight in the Manchester United squad.
However, with the exit-door looming, Rojo has seemingly earned himself a lifeline back into contention in the last week.
With Bailly out for the next two months (thereafter attending the African Cup of Nations), and Smalling performing miserably, Rojo has been reintroduced to the defensive fold as a centre half.
Although untested against Burnley on Saturday, Rojo was awarded Man of the Match (BBC) in last week’s 1-0 win over Manchester City, an individual performance in which Mourinho described Rojo to MUTV as ‘phenomenal’.
Here are Rojo’s individual highlights against Manchester City:
It was a reminder of the player we signed from Sporting Lisbon; a player we’ve seen too little of since. Superbly pressing the likes of Sergio Agüero and Kelechi Iheanacho, Rojo formed a defence that stopped league-leaders Manchester City from registering a single shot on target.
While it’s premature to usher compliments upon him, he certainly has caught the eye in the last week. A strong tackler, a very good presser with decent distribution, Rojo reminded United fans what he can offer if played at centre-half.
Whether he’ll be able to retain his place when Smalling starts firing and Bailly return is unlikely, but he’ll do his reputation no harm if he continues with his current vein of form.
Despite being behind Smalling, Blind and Bailly in the pecking order, Rojo can still provide a solid backup; particularly given the lack of squad depth at centre-half in recent years.
Although he’s recognised as a left back, the Argentine needs to rebrand himself back into a centre-half. He lacks the fundamental abilities to be a fullback at Manchester United, but he has proven a capability at performing at centre-half.
Now an opportunity has seemingly arisen, the coming weeks will entail whether he’s capable of forcing his way back into Mourinho’s first-team plans – surely this is the chance to salvage his Manchester United career?