Manchester United announced the first summer signing more than a week ago. José Mourinho made Victor Lindelöf, a centre-back, his first signing this summer, as he did last summer with Eric Bailly. The Portuguese manager said in his official statement that Lindelöf will add much-needed quality and depth in the defence.
The English giants are going to add more players to their squad so that Mourinho can challenge for Premier League title next season. However, apart from arrivals, the Portuguese will also allow some players to leave the club. Zlatan Ibrahimović has been already released, although he will continue his rehabilitation at the club.
Matteo Darmian is one of those players who will probably not play for United next season. Juventus have reportedly contacted Manchester United for the signature of the Italian.
Darmian delivered a strong performance in Europa League final against Ajax and was one of the best players for the club in last three months of the season. Mourinho should keep the fullback at the at leastleast for one more season due to the following reasons.
Tactically intelligent player
Mourinho has been using a different set of fullbacks throughout his career. The Portuguese has one fullback who bombs forwards and contributes in the final third while the other fullback tucks in to become an auxiliary centreback.
At his previous club - Chelsea - Mourinho used Branislov Ivanović as the attacking fullback while Cesar Azpilicueta became the defensive fullback on the left hand side. Mourinho uses the same method at United with Antonio Valencia becoming the attacking fullback while Darmian as the defensive fullback on left flank.
Darmian has shown the tactical intelligence to carry out this role perfectly. The Italian has been a solid defender while he also helps the centrebacks when Valencia is committed forward. There have been notably good performances in bigger games from Darmian which moved him ahead of Luke Shaw and Daley Blind for the leftback role.
Good injury history
Manchester United suffered an injury crisis in the most crucial part of the season. This was one of the reason why their campaign in Premier League got derailed in final months. They finished sixth in Premier League, but winning Europa League salvaged their season as they qualified for group stages of next year’s Champions League.
Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo were injured from April for United. The fitness of the English duo cannot be trusted while the Argentine was unlucky as he suffered an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury against Anderlecht.
However, Matteo Darmian also ticks this box as the Italian has a brilliant injury record. The Italian suffered two injuries in his debut campaign with United which were contact injuries rather than the muscle injuries.
According to the data from transfermarkt, the Italian had not suffered injuries in the previous four campaign. He also didn’t suffer any injuries under José Mourinho which makes him one of those players who are always available to play. With Champions League games next year, Mourinho will like to have a player who has such a terrific injury record.
Darmian is a versatile defender
In his first press conference as a Manchester United manager, Mourinho admitted that he wants specialist players in all positions. Ironically, the versatile players were to his rescue in the most important game of the season. Daley Blind and Darmian played exceptionally well against Ajax in the centreback and leftback role respectively.
Darmian has filled in various roles throughout the season for United. He can comfortably slot in at the rightback and leftback role allowing his manager to rest 32-year-old Valencia. Moreover, if the Portuguese opts for a three-man defence, Darmian can play as a centreback on either side of the central centreback.
The Italian briefly played as centreback in a back four against Swansea when Eric Bailly was substituted due to injury. He is one of the few players in the squad who can play different roles and deliver consistent performances. Despite his love for specialist players, Mourinho should probably stick with Darmian who delivers a 7/10 performance in every position.
Very professional despite playing less
At the start of the last season, Mourinho used Valencia and Shaw as his first choice fullbacks. Darmian used to get a role on the bench and sometimes was left out of the matchday squad. The Italian still would have hoped to play more throughout the campaign but he can be happy that he has finally won the trust of his manager.
The squad players who played less for United last year like Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay moved to new clubs in January to get more gametime. However, Darmian repeatedly stressed the fact in his comments that he will fight for his place as there is a lot of competition at a big club like Manchester United. His hard work was rewarded and by the end of the campaign he became one of those few players who were nailed down to start games.
Darmian saw out the difficult phase last season in the most professional manner. The Italian worked hard in training and slowly improved his performances in the limited chances he got. This type of players become an example for the dressing room and Mourinho should look to keep Darmian at United next season.