Not Yet Featured Under Mourinho – Does This Forgotten Manchester United Defender Have A Future At The Club?

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In the summer of 2015, then Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal brought 25-year-old Italian right full-back Matteo Darmian to Old Trafford for 12.7 million pounds from Serie A club Torino.

Having been voted in the team of the Year in Serie A earlier that year, Darmian was an exciting prospect for United and a player who filled more than one position in the backline. His ability to play at left-back, as well as a centre-half and right-back, were well documented from his time in Turin. Considering the fact that Antonio Valencia was never viewed as a natural full-back and Rafael da Silva fell out of favour with van Gaal and moved to Lyon, Darmian was hailed as a long-term solution to United’s defensive woes.

He began life in England impressively and was rightly awarded Man of the Match in United’s season opener against Tottenham Hotspur at home. Darmian possessed enough fuel in the tank going forward and made some darting runs past his marker while being able to track back when required. What caught the critics’ eye though was his game-reading skill. The Italian became prominent in the back-four alongside Chris Smalling, Daley Blind and till mid-September, Luke Shaw.

As the saying goes, it isn’t always rainbows and sunshine for anybody and Darmian was put through the grinder when United visited Arsenal in the Premier League on October 3, 2015. A twenty-minute blitz in the first half saw the Gunners raced to an unassailable three-goal lead, a striking feature of which was Alexis Sanchez’s movement down Darmian’s flank. The full-back was overrun and outmanoeuvred so menacingly by the Chilean winger that half that van Gaal hooked him off at the interval.

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Ever since that traumatizing experience, Darmian just hasn’t been the same player. His performances dipped drastically and injuries began taking its toll as the season wore on. While the latter was applicable to over half the squad, Darmian never fully recovered from that day at the Emirates and all the early season optimism was forgotten in a flash.

It has been over a year since that eventful afternoon but things look bleaker for the Italian at Old Trafford now. Having fallen down the pecking order at right full-back to Antonio Valencia, Darmian is yet to feature for United in the Premier League. His only appearance of the season came in his side’s dismal defeat to Feyenoord in the Europa League. Such has been his fall from grace that academy graduate Timothy Fosu-Mensah was picked ahead of him for United’s League Cup tie at Northampton Town and second Europa League group stage game against Zorya Luhansk. To be overlooked in the Premier League is one thing but to have fallen out of favour in the other two competitions all but spells the full-back’s death knell.

It has been widely reported that Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is keen on reuniting with his fellow countryman from his days as manager of the national team. Other columns suggest Internazionale are also in the hunt for Darmian’s signature and given his current predicament at Old Trafford, a move wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for him. Darmian is still a very good defender, one who can boast a high degree of intelligence. Unfortunately, his Manchester United career appears to have hit a dead-end and unless something extraordinary happens between now and the January transfer window, he could be on his way to a new club. A disappointing demise, should it materialize.