Jose Mourinho raised several eyebrows during United’s first victory in pre-season, beating AC Milan on penalties. Not only was the omission of Anthony Martial an initial talking point for many, what turned out to be paternity duties, but there was an unlikely wearer of the captain’s armband.
Many are amazed that Matteo Darmian, perhaps a symbol of United’s regression in recent years, is even at the club, let alone assume the role of captaincy, albeit in a meaningless capacity in pre-season.
The decision was made that bit more baffling when you consider Jose Mourinho’s post-match comments, where he confirmed the Italian is not looking to stay at the club:
“Matteo wants to leave and I think when a player wants to leave, if the right offer arrives you have to try to be human and let the player follow his instinct but not at any price.”
If looked that Darmian had the potential to get a miraculous reprieve at United, when Antonio Valencia joined new signing Diogo Dalot in the treatment room. That said, Axel Tuanzebe and Tim Fosu-Mensah have returned from loans at Aston Villa and Crystal Palace respectively to offer Mourinho further options at right-back.
Tuanzebe, in fact, debuted for United in the position, earning rave reviews for how he shackeled his now team-mate Alexis Sanchez. Fosu-Mensah started last season in the role under Frank de Boer at Selhurst Park but was largely marginalised as the season progressed, with Roy Hodgson leaning towards the more experienced Joel Ward and Martin Kelly as they avoided relegation.
United do appear well stocked in the right-back department, even taking into account a possible Darmian departure. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Ashley Young could also fill in there now and again.
The Italian’s departure is not a foregone conclusion, though, with Mourinho pointing out that United have yet to receive a suitable offer for his services:
“Until now, the offers we got for Matteo are not even close to being accepted.”
That is, in no small part, due to teams in his homeland trying to get a deal on the cheap or a loan, which is not in keeping with United’s desires.
After a promising start to life in Manchester, Darmian struggled to adjust to the rigours and pace of the league, with the majority of his starts restricted to domestic and European cups, which suited his game more.
This one could drag on, but it’s safe to say not too many reds will be disappointed to see him go.