The Summer of 2015 was a surreal one, to say the least, with moves that saw Robin van Persie and Nani, Rafael da Silva (a transfer I’ve still not come to terms with), Angel Di Maria and Jonny Evans heading through the exit doors. Amidst those departures, the rumour of David De Gea’s imminent departure kept buzzing around everyone’s ears like an unwelcome mosquito in the middle of the night that just wouldn’t die.
In through the other end, the welcome mat was laid out for players like Morgan Schneiderlin, Memphis Depay, Sergio Romero, Deutsche fußballmeister Bastian Schweinsteiger, Anthony Martial on deadline day and an unknown Italian Gary Neville lookalike fullback from Torino called Matteo Darmian that could play on either side of the defence. Moving on to the first match of the 2015/16 season, United beat Tottenham Hotspur at home 1-0 through a Kyle Walker own goal, a standard Louis van Gaal result with a standard Van Gaal performance.
That match saw Chris Smalling getting Man of the Match, however, the player that caught my eye was our new number 36, Darmian. Solid in defence and wouldn’t stop darting forwards, making runs up and down the pitch up until he was substituted in the 80th minute by Antonio Valencia. Many suggested Darmian as a close contender for Man of the Match and rightly so.
Darmian followed his solid performance with another decent outing at Villa Park the following Friday when United beat Aston Villa 1-0 through an Adnan Januzaj goal which proved to be his last in a United shirt. Darmian’s start to life at Old Trafford was an impressive one, to say the least, with the fullback being named United’s Player of the Month for August 2015 and he even went on score a spectacular volley against Crystal Palace later on in the season.
United seemed to have found the versatile fullback they so craved and the future for 25-year-old Darmian looked a bright one, what could go wrong? Fast forward to the present day, Darmian cuts a lost and forgotten figure at Carrington (I refuse to use its new name), with a total of 36 appearances in three seasons compared to the 28 in his debut season, Darmian has fallen behind Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia and now young prospect Diogo Dalot in the fight to become United’s first choice right-back.
There seemed to be some hope of rekindling his Old Trafford career, after a move back to the Serie A failed to materialise during the summer with Ed Woodward refusing to sell the player for anything less than the reported sum of £15 million. Things looked on the up when according to Darmian’s agent said that Jose Mourinho refused to give up on the player. Sadly, we all know how that story ended. Darmian’s story at United now seems to have reached its epilogue.
At the time of writing this, the Italian fullback is on the verge of securing a loan move to Italian champions Juventus for £4 million with an option to buy at £8 million, which will surely not go down well with his former club Torino (think Luke Shaw moving to Manchester City). The move back home seems to be the perfect move to reignite his career with Darmian looking to get back to playing regular football and back into the Italian national side.
With Juventus fighting on all fronts (again) this season, Darmian could play an important part as Juventus will surely need more depth in both fullback positions currently occupied by the electrifying Joao Cancelo, Matteo De Sciglio and rumoured United target Alex Sandro. United could have made more money in the summer if Ed Woodward budged slightly on his estimation of the player, but that’s Woodward for you.
Whilst there’s nothing much to write about in terms of performances in Darmian’s last two seasons at the club, one must admire the professionalism shown by the player. With unfortunate injuries, admitting to being homesick, losing his place in the national squad and a failed transfer back home, the player has handled all this in a professional manner. In a day and age where players create unneeded drama by taking snarky swipes at their managers and clubs on social media, whilst their agents to fuel rumours of interest from other clubs to either force an exit or a better pay cheque, Darmian has forgone all of those methods.
Darmian has always been there when called upon even after the club scuppered his move last summer and whenever he was called upon, he gave his utmost on the pitch and tried his best without any fuss or shenanigans. The story of Darmian at United could be summed up in one sentence: The wrong player with the right character. Which is a shame really, because United could do with the professionalism of the Darmian’s of this world, players that make United proud, not just on the pitch but off it too.
Good luck, Matteo, I wish it turned out differently.
Written by John Grech