Matteo Darmian’s Manchester United future seemed to be up in the air this season. Jose Mourinho clearly saw Antonio Valencia as his first choice right back for United, and with Luke Shaw returning from his broken leg it also meant that Darmian wouldn’t get a chance to play as a left back either.
But Darmian now seems to have been handed an Old Trafford lifeline. Antonio Valencia fractured his arm in the Manchester Derby and looks set to be out for around six weeks, so now Darmian may be given an opportunity to dislodge the Ecuadorian from Mourinho’s first choice XI on a permanent basis if he manages to impress in the coming weeks.
Darmian has only appeared for United three times this season; in the Europa League against Fenerbahce and Feyenoord, and most recently against Burnley in the Premier League. Darmian has looked impressive in all three appearances this season, and arguably should have been awarded two penalties at the weekend, which may have won United all three points if it wasn’t for the poor refereeing from Mark Clattenburg.
I thought that Darmian would have been a Jose Mourinho player, he’s solid defensively, and a solid defence is the foundation upon which all of Mourinho’s sides are build. But Darmian’s chances of first team football were severely handicapped by his involvement in the Euro’s. He arrived for pre-season late due to his Italy commitments, and Mourinho had already played two pre-season games, with Valencia and Tim Fosu-Mensah being deployed in the right-back position. So therefore, Mourinho may have already decided that the duo would be his right backs for the season, without Darmian ever being given a chance. The other problem that Darmian faced was that on his return match for United against Galatasaray Antonio Valencia rediscovered his ability to cross the ball and bagged a hat-trick of assists in that game, whilst Darmian came off the bench and was played as a left-back.
Darmian seems to have a new lease of life under Mourinho and it seems that he won’t be forced out of Manchester without putting up a fight first. Against Burnley he won 100% of his tackles and ariel duels, as well as making four interceptions and five clearances. The stand out aspect of his game is his defensive skill, and although Valencia may be better going forwards than Darmian a right back is a part of the defence, so their defensive qualities should come ahead of the attacking threat that they can also pose.
The only problem I can see with Darmian starting week in and week out is that it could potentially hamper Tim Fosu-Mensah’s development. Fosu-Mensah hasn’t looked out-of-place in the first team since making his debut last season and although he isn’t a right-back by trade he has impressed whenever asked to play there. But, the less he plays there the less likely that he is to be seen as a full-back long-term, which can only be a positive as his long-term future is as a central midfielder.
Whether Darmian has an Old Trafford future or not remains to be seen, but he has been handed a gift by Valencia’s injury which may just be enough to prolong his stay at United. He must now seize this opportunity, and if he does so he may just be able to convince Mourinho that he is a better option at right-back than Valencia. Will he make the post of this opportunity? Only time will tell, but I certainly hope that he does, he certainly has the ability to do so.