Since Dani Alves has decided he wants to stay at Barcelona and former Saint Nathaniel Clyne has opted for Anfield, United have become more limited in options for a right back. Fortunately, there remains hope in Matteo Darmian. According to various internet sources including trusted Italian journalist Gianluca DiMarzio, United has been strongly linked with the Italian wingback and he could be just what the Red Devils need. Napoli and Bayern Munich have also been linked but it appears as though United is leading the race. The 25-year-old has had a strong presence for Torino and began to garner more attention when he performed well at the World Cup in Brazil last summer.
United’s Defensive Problems
This past season Van Gaal experimented with Phil Jones and Antonio Valencia in the right fullback position despite the fact that both of them are more suited to the roles of centre back and winger respectively. Both Jones and Valencia were preferred over Rafael, a true right back, who appears to be out of favour. Even if preferred, Rafael spent a significant portion of the last campaign injured, and when he was healthy, his height (5ft 7in) left him vulnerable on set pieces. Against Chelsea, he was marking Drogba on a corner that cost United a goal. Valencia, while talented and athletic, lacks experience in the defensive role and made mistakes that led to United conceding against the likes of Arsenal, and is more suitable in a midfield role.
Matteo spent his youth career at Milan but didn’t manage to make many senior appearances. He was loaned to Padova in Serie B for a season, then spent a season at Palermo. Darmian has played most recently for Torino since 2011, where he made 133 appearances and even managed five goals this season. He has also made thirteen appearances for the Italian national team and has recently solidified his place as the preferred right back on a side typically associated with strong defence.
In January he was awarded the Pallone Azzurro, over the likes of Pirlo and Marchisio, which is given to the best player for the national team for the previous year. The versatile defender has experience in a 3-5-2 formation and would be quick to adapt to United’s preferred formation. The wingback can play on either flank but prefers the right where he most often plays.
At six feet tall, he has a strong aerial presence on set pieces on both ends of the pitch and is quite the improvement over Rafael. He is a strong tackler, won 52% of duels this season, and had a pass accuracy of 78%. He is effective offensively, creating the second most chances of any member of the Torino squad (39). To relate to Manchester United, only Rooney, Mata and Di Maria created more chances than the Italian fullback.
At twenty-five, he is the perfect age for United who need an experienced fullback, that still has plenty of years to play and potential to develop further. He also has some European experience as he made 10 appearances in the Europa League where he completed nearly 80% of his passes, scored two goals and assisted two more. Darmian is renowned for his pace, stamina, and his combination of offensive and defensive quality. He has been compared to other Italian defenders like the legendary Maldini. United would do well to sign a player who is so solid defensively but possesses the endurance (see this endurance training guide) and tactical awareness to effectively play up and down the right flank, a skill that is conducive to their playing style.
It is clear that Darmian would be a great signing for the Red Devils who are striving for a return to title contention this season. The signing would strengthen the defence, as well as free up Valencia to play in his natural winger position. The Torino president, Urbano Cairo, says that he will not let Darmian leave for less than 20 million euros but many would agree that this is a fair sum for the defender, and it is certainly a signing United can afford. The right back could finally be the replacement in the position that has been lacking at Old Trafford since Gary Neville retired. In combination with the incoming Memphis Depay from PSV Eindhoven, the Italian could contribute to a very strong summer window for United. Darmian belongs at an elite club and has the potential to develop into quite the formidable defender.
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Why Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw has crossed the line
The Portuguese manager has been highly critical of Luke Shaw this season.
The fractious relationship between Jose Mourinho and Luke Shaw plumbed new depths when the left-back was substituted at half-time in Manchester United’s FA Cup victory over Brighton & Hove Albion. The 22-year-old had been handed a rare opportunity to impress at Old Trafford but lasted only 45 minutes.
Speaking about Shaw in his post-match interview, Mourinho said: “Luke, in the first half, every time they came in his corridor, the cross came in and a dangerous situation was coming. I was not happy with his performance.”
The differences between the pair now appear to be irreconcilable. Shaw, who was signed by Louis van Gaal in the summer of 2014, has been used sparingly by Mourinho. The former Southampton starlet has made just 18 Premier League appearances under the Portuguese in a career that has been blighted by injuries.
Being substituted at half-time is almost as embarrassing as it gets for a player and Shaw’s mood will not have improved after being publicly criticised by his manager. It’s certainly not the first time Mourinho has chosen to talk candidly to the media about his concerns with the 22-year-old.
Some players require an arm around the shoulder to perform at their peak, while for others it takes a kick up the backside. Mourinho, opting for the latter, does nothing without reason and has clearly tried to spark a reaction from Shaw, without success.
From being one of English football’s brightest prospects after making his World Cup debut aged just 18, Shaw, who has seven England caps to his name, is in danger of not fulfilling the potential that convinced United to spend what was then a world-record fee for a teenager.
Mourinho’s tactic of singling out individuals who have not met his standards is in stark contrast to Sir Alex Ferguson, who never blamed his players in public. It has divided opinion among pundits, with Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier claiming the United manager is ‘destroying’ Shaw.
Mourinho is an expert at using smokescreens to distract from his side’s unconvincing performances. And this latest controversy has moved the narrative on from United’s shock Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla.
Tough love is one thing, but the sustained, public attack on Shaw is unacceptable. If Mourinho genuinely believes he is not good enough to represent United, then fair enough. But to continually vilify the youngster’s performances is a step too far and one that could irreparably damage Shaw’s confidence.
This is not to say that Shaw is a completely innocent bystander. Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, also questioned his desire and general conditioning when he joined United four years ago. Indeed, the Dutchman signed Shaw up to a tailored exercise regime in an effort to improve his fitness.
But while van Gaal’s treatment had the desired effect, Mourinho’s has done the opposite. Being publicly humiliated on a routine basis does neither party any favours.
In all likelihood, Shaw’s disappointing United career will come to an end this summer. A fresh start away from the toxicity under Mourinho is exactly what he needs.
Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week
The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.
With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.
Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.
In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.
Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.
One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.
The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.
Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.
This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.
If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.
It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.
Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.
Despite improvement, Everton should not rekindle Thomas Vermaelen interest
The Belgian defender has been in better form for Barcelona this season.
Rumours have emerged today suggesting Everton could be back in for Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen.
Catalan newspaper Sport has reported that the 32-year-old could be offered a new deal by Barcelona, with a team from the Premier League interested in signing him.
Sport Witness has openly hypothesised that Everton could be that team. Whilst there is no confirmation or substantiated report that is the case, the boot certainly fits.
Last summer Everton tried to sign Vermaelen.
As reported by the Liverpool Echo, at the time Barcelona vetoed a loan move to Everton as they felt the defender could be a useful asset.
The Belgian certainly has. After struggling with injuries and form throughout most of his Barcelona tenure the former Arsenal man has enjoyed a good season.
The 32-year-old has been a genuine asset to the Catalans, despite still being used sparingly, and such form has even seen him win back a place in Roberto Martinez’s national selection for Belgium.
If it is Everton interested in Vermaelen it is easy to see why. Centre-back has been a major problem for the club this season.
However, Vermaelen, or a player of his ilk, is not the answer to the Toffees’ woes.
The Belgian is obviously a talented player with plenty of experience, but Everton need to freshen up their back-line.
Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka’s age has shown in recent months.
The pair have been, at the best, inconsistent for the past 18 months and Everton need fresh young talent in the heart of defence if they are to succeed.
Vermaelen is not only 32 but also immensely injury prone. Everton need reliable figures to plug their leaky defences and the Belgian can simply not be relied upon.
Whilst on paper it seems a good deal, and one Everton could certainly turn to their benefit.
The truth is supporters of the Goodison Park outfit will hope they are not the club reportedly keen on bringing Vermaelen back to the Premier League.
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