Having been forced into deploying a right winger in defence for the majority of last season, it’s being claimed that Louis van Gaal has finally remedied his team’s lack of options in the position.
According to the Daily Mail, a fee of just over £14million has been agreed between Manchester United and Torino for the transfer of Italian international right-back Matteo Darmian.
Last season, Antonio Valencia was forced to deputise as a result of Van Gaal’s lack of trust in Rafael da Silva, the only true right-back in United’s squad, thanks to the disruption caused by the Brazilian’s persistent injury problems.
Whilst Valencia adapted admirably, it was clear to see that it wasn't his natural position, and that it was far from a long-term solution as United prepare for a season which will see them make a return to Europe.
Darmian the specialist
25-year-old Darmian will take over as a specialist in the position, and contribute a defensive solidity that has been lacking in recent seasons.
Plenty will be unfamiliar with Darmian as a player, but avid England fans may be aware of him thanks to his impact in one particular game; as part of the ill-fated Italy World Cup squad, he shone against England in the group stage opener in Manaus last summer.
Whilst helping them to a 2-1 victory on the night, he could not exert enough influence to stop Italy from crashing out of the tournament at the group stages, having lost to Costa Rica and Uruguay.
The position in which he thrived that night, as an attacking full-back on the right of defence, demonstrates some of the versatility that he will bring to Old Trafford; something that Van Gaal seems particularly keen on his squad containing, evidenced by the presence of players such as Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo.
A product of the AC Milan academy, Darmian is a right-back by trade, but is comfortable playing as a wing-back, as well as on the left. At just shy of six foot, he is also able to fill in in central defence; the position in which he started his career.
After Dani Alves, their primary target, disappointed them - opting to sign a new deal with Barcelona having publicly hinted that he would leave the club - questions had been asked as to why United failed to actively compete with Liverpool for Nathaniel Clyne.
The 24-year-old England right-back, a consistent performer at both ends of the pitch, was in the last year of his contract, and so available for a relatively modest fee.
In Darmian, however, United are getting a seasoned performer, still yet to reach his prime, for a similar price.
If we take a look at the other rumoured frontrunner for the vacancy on the right side of United's defence, Everton’s Seamus Coleman, Darmian had more shots and played more key passes per game last season, whilst also averaging more tackles and registering more interceptions per match.
He benefits further from being unaffected by the British and Irish premium that afflicts clubs looking to bring in young Premier League talent, and this is reflected in the fee that Torino have accepted for the defender.
Matteo Darmian’s strengths lie both in attack and in defence, and in bringing him to the club, the red side of Manchester will have something to celebrate before the season has even started, having found a long-term solution to a problem position that hasn’t been adequately addressed since the day Gary Neville retired.
United fans, does Darmian have the potential to be right-back at Old Trafford for many years yet? Let us know in the comments box below.
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