Matteo Darmian began life at Manchester United quicker than anyone could imagine. Stunning displays at home to Tottenham Hotspur and away to Aston Villa in the opening games of the 2015-16 season gave United fans hope they finally found an adequate replacement for Gary Neville, even if the Old Trafford faithful were fond of Rafael Da Silva who was sold to Lyon for an undisclosed fee.
Everything changed in October, though, when Alexis Sanchez left Darmian with twisted blood as Arsenal demolished United 3-0. The Italian right-back was United’s worst player on the pitch that day allowing Sanchez score a brace. Interestingly, Darmian made his first Serie A home start while on-loan at Palermo in 2011, against Udinese, when he was first made mark the Chilean. Palermo lost 7-0, a record home defeat, and their manager at the time was sacked. While Sanchez scored four goals, Darmian was sent off, and it wasn’t until their meeting at the Emirates in 2015 that they would play against one another again.
A bad omen.
Moreover, Darmian never really recovered from that and had subsequently faltered in his attempts to get back to those initial high standards.
That was until the Azzurri international was trusted and called upon in the big games under Jose Mourinho, particularly as the season came to an end. That impressive form has put the Champions League’s losing finalists Juventus on red alert to replace their departing full-back, Dani Alves, seemingly to a club across the city of Manchester.
However, according to The Sun, Mourinho wants to hold discussions with Darmian to head off interest from Juventus. The newspaper claims it is one of the manager’s top priorities when the squad return to Carrington next month.
The 27-year-old came to England with a reputation of being a full-back who is adept on both flanks. A traditional Italian defender, who had played with five at the back in the past. That was enough to suggest that he would almost be a utility player, but one less effective once he stepped across the half-way line.
If it wasn’t for Antonio Valencia having his best season yet as a United player, at right-back, Darmian would have had more opportunities in his preferred position, but instead he did a solid job on the opposite flank, notably against Pedro of Chelsea in the league and Bertrand Traore, their player loaned to Ajax, in the Europa League final.
The left-back position had become a concern before Darmian flourished. Luke Shaw had fitness issues and struggles with injuries. Daley Blind is too slow to make a full-back position his own. Ashley Young is nothing more than a stopgap, and Marcos Rojo, who was United’s most improved player last season, looked more comfortable in a centre-back role.
That means the left-back role is still very much up for grabs. Mourinho currently has no apparent long-term solution unless Shaw gets his act together, or he dips into the transfer market.
Darmian is versatile, a willing squad player and there are benefits to keeping hold of the Italian with Champions League football thrown into the mix next season. He also has unfinished business at Old Trafford; to prove he can consistently perform at the highest level throughout an entire season.
As a result, the former Torino defender has not yet made the left-back position his own, though as things stand he’s probably the best option at Mourinho’s disposal. Darmian is not as good as Shaw when it comes to getting forward and threatening the opposition in an offensive manner, but defensively he’s second the none.
If reports are to be believed would United accept a £20 million offer? Darmian is not the greatest thing since sliced bread, but Mourinho would be disappointed if he was to return to Turin.