After looking at the future of Daley Blind in my first of the Transfer Index Series of articles, this week we will be evaluating the prospects of Italian Matteo Darmian staying at Old Trafford for the next season and beyond, under Jose Mourinho.
When the Italian arrived from Torino for a reasonable fee under £15-million, there was a case for optimism for the supporters. This was Louis van Gaal making a shrewd acquisition in the Summer to address what had been a weakness for United over the past few years. Not only was his appearance very reminiscent of a young Gary Neville, for a few weeks, Matteo Darmian showed he was capable of producing the amount of consistency that Neville was able to, week in week out in a tough role, especially in the Premier League.
Darmian’s Premier League debut for United came on the opening day of the 15/16 campaign when United edged Tottenham Hotspur in a 1-0 win, a game where Darmian looked confident and assured – almost eased into the role so much so that he was immediately tipped for a long and successful career at the club. In fact, his performances August were pretty impressive in that he even managed to bag United’s Player of the Month award in his first month at the club. But like most of the positive things that happened under the management of the Dutchman, this too was short-lived.
A few weeks later – he suffered his first real bad game since his arrival at the Emirates when Arsenal romped to a 3-0 win against United in the opening 25 minutes. Darmian was on toast on that fateful evening in October as the now Manchester United forward Alexis Sanchez ruthlessly exploited the Italian’s less-than-impressive reactions to danger to the fullest extent.
Darmian has never at any point excelled under Van Gaal (nor did most of the players) over a period of time and even under Jose Mourinho, an objectively defensive-minded and cautious manager – that has generally remained the case. The Italian’s lack of genuine, penetrating pace will always work against his selection in the Premier League, especially for Mourinho who has built successful teams throughout his career fuelled by powerful fullbacks who could run up and down the channel, making handsome contributions at both ends of the pitch.
That is not to say, Matteo Darmian could never make it at another top club. The fact that he is still attracting offers from the likes of Juventus – shows that he has what it takes to thrive in a demanding setup with his stock in Italy still quite high.
But the fact that the 28-year old has made just 25 appearances in the Premier League under the Portuguese despite being largely fit and available for selection – behind a 32-year old in the pecking order – does tell a different story.
For the counter-attacking brand of football that Mourinho wants to implement at United – primarily with a four-man defence flanked by fullbacks who would run through a brick wall for him and the team – fully convinced of his vision and ideas, it is hard not to imagine the manager looking either within the club or in the transfer market to bolster the squad for next season in a few areas with the fullback position being one.
With Timothy Fosu-Mensah returning to Manchester United after a successful loan spell at Crystal Palace – learning the trade as a fullback with all the raw abilities and some valuable experience under the cosh that Mourinho values, it appears that the opportunities for Darmian establishing himself at Old Trafford are not going to get any better.