No devil-may-care act from Darmian

Matteo Darmian should give United boss Louis van Gaal less headaches in the right-back position.
Matteo Darmian should give United boss Louis van Gaal less headaches in the right-back position.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

LONDON • Rafael da Silva's eight-year association with Manchester United came to an end this week when he joined Lyon. But while the Brazilian's infectious personality may be missed at Old Trafford, fans will not miss his frequent rushes of blood to the head.

Louis van Gaal did not take long to establish that Rafael's rashness on the pitch was an issue.

The defender's fate was sealed long before Matteo Darmian arrived from Torino last month as the intended solution to the problematic right-back position.

While van Gaal expects his full-backs to be able to attack with pace and purpose, the manager also demands a degree of diligence and discipline from them.

Rafael, who always seemed to play with his foot pressed firmly against the accelerator, did not fit his prototype. Darmian, 25, on the other hand, does.

The son of a technical designer, the Italy defender might be considered a mild obsessive-compulsive.

His house, by his own admission, is immaculate.

If he has a bugbear with his longstanding partner Francesca, it centres on her apparent insistence on smoking indoors.

Tattoos terrify him, which is vaguely amusing given that so many of his peers have become monuments to indelible ink.

And he hates bad drivers.

On that front, he should have better luck in England than on Italy's chaotic roads.

"I like order and precision," Darmian, 25, said in an interview last year. These are the sort of qualities that van Gaal will hope Darmian brings to the right side of a defence that was infiltrated far too often last season.

Rafael was soon replaced by Antonio Valencia, whose discomfort at full-back was frequently evident until the Ecuador winger began to settle down in the final weeks of the campaign.

Van Gaal suggested at one point in pre-season that Valencia would remain his first-choice right-back.

But that stance had altered by the time United concluded their tour programme with a 2-0 defeat by Paris Saint-Germain in Chicago.

Darmian, along with Luke Shaw, the left-back, had emerged as the team's most consistent performer in the United States.

The day after he made his debut for Italy, against Ireland at Craven Cottage in May last year, Darmian was included in Cesare Prandelli's World Cup squad.

A fortnight later, he was starting at right-back against England.

Now, he is the first player to move from Torino to Old Trafford since Denis Law, the former Scotland striker, in 1962.

Darmian's performance in Italy's 2-1 win in Manaus did not escape the attention of Gary Neville, the England first-team coach. And the former United captain has been quick to approve Darmian, which is probably just as well because he is a Neville type full-back.

Hard-working, defensively adept and with good attacking instincts, only taller, better-looking and less likely to give team-mates earache through persistent chatter.

"Very polite and extremely well- mannered" is how one senior United staffer described Darmian this week. Rash the club's new right-back is not.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2015, with the headline 'No devil-may-care act from Darmian'. Subscribe