As part of my weekly feature titled ‘Manchester United Transfer Index’, we will look at the future of Argentine centre-half who cannot make a toast for a living, Marcos Rojo.
Moving on from full-backs and makeshift full-backs, this piece will focus on the somewhat murky career of Marcos Rojo at Manchester United. Rojo, in many ways, typifies Manchester United under Mourinho.
On his day, he can be the most aggressive yet at the same time, incredibly calculative defender on the pitch and when he is confident there are few players in that squad who could genuinely defend as well as he can, particularly under the cosh. But on most other days, Rojo can be a mixed bag of a footballer, always has one mistake in him, which could cost a match.
The Argentine’s time in Manchester has been up and down – like most defenders’ time post-Vidic and Ferdinand at Old Trafford. Injuries never allowed him to have a sustained run with the first team and when he was injury-free – Mourinho had better and more in-form options to choose from at centre-half which meant limited opportunities in the starting eleven for the 28-year old who, a few years ago – went on strike in protest – in a bid to force a move to Manchester United.
His comeback in November was a relief to United at a time when they struggled to keep their central defenders fit. In a tough run and month in December that ultimately ended United’s challenge for the league title as such, Rojo was quite heavily involved. Successfully recovering from a long-term cruciate injury is not a mean feat by any stretch of the imagination and for him to do it and have the mental fortitude to step back on to the field within seven months was the kind of commitment that Mourinho constantly looks for in his players.
He returned to the fold and made his first appearance against FC Basel in the Champions League in a game that United would ultimately lose. Later on, he played 45 minutes in the derby which would end in disappointment for that would prove to be the difference between where both sides in Manchester stood. United lacked quality and depth where it mattered the most whereas City’s hugely impressive work in the transfer window – in terms of getting rid of the deadwood and addressing key areas – was reflected on the night’s display.
Between December and May, Rojo faced another fairly lengthy period on the sidelines. He made a total of 9 Premier League appearances – 8 starts in total for the whole season, not a large enough sample size for any kind of analytic measure of his performance as a whole.
With the addition of Eric Bailly in recent seasons – who is still only 22 and needs an experienced head beside him for his own development, Marcos Rojo’s chances of establishing himself at United under the Portuguese – at 28, are not all bleak. After all, here is a man with over 50 International caps for Argentina, playing an integral role in the country’s road to a historic final in Brazil. He has never looked intimidated by the big stage and Old Trafford can unsettle people as it has done in the past – South Americans especially. And Rojo may indeed be the exception to this hypothesis.
It is telling that the Argentine is one of the last few players that were signed by Louis van Gaal that Mourinho has not shipped out yet in another Summer which is expected to be a busier period for the club. Rojo has endured all his life and will continue to be in the frame at Manchester United – the club where his footballing idol Juan Sebastian Veron once failed to hit the heights that was expected of him.
Rojo, being the fighter that he is, may indeed end up doing the opposite.
Verdict – Keep.