With the January transfer window open, Jose Mourinho will be keen to bring in some top quality players to close the gap between Manchester United and their rivals Manchester City.
Given the number of injuries that United have suffered this season, the squad may be too thin to allow anyone to leave without having a replacement drafted in their place, although some fans would argue exceptions should be made to allow Matteo Darmian to be sold.
The right-back has been linked with a return to Serie A, with Juventus, Roma and Napoli all reportedly interested in signing him.
However, Darmian’s agent, Tullio Tinti, has claimed there haven’t been any offers for him from the fourth ranked team in Italy, although others have shown an interest.
“I’ve not received any calls from Roma for the player,” he told Rete Sport. “There is contact with other teams in Serie A, but not with the Giallorossi. For the moment, the boy is not for sale.”
Darmian has suffered a difficult season at Old Trafford so far. After ending the last campaign on a high with a great performance in the victorious Europa League final against Ajax, when he’s been called upon this season he has failed to impress.
Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young and Victor Lindelof have all been preferred to the Italian in the right-back position. Valencia, a converted winger, is the only player who could claim this as his position now though, with Young used more regularly on the left and Lindelof a centre-half by trade.
United supporters would argue that Axel Tuanzebe, a product of their youth team, should be ahead of Darmian in pecking order too. He came on for Juan Mata in the final minutes of United’s 2-0 win over Everton at Goodison Park, which shows he is in the thoughts of the manager at least.
Darmian’s performance in United’s recent defeat against Bristol City in the EFL Cup drew plenty of criticism. If he can’t keep the pace with Championship attackers, it’s hard to justify his place in a team fighting it out to finish as high in the Premier League as possible.
Napoli need a right-back and reports from Italy claim that Darmian is looking for a move away from the club. With the World Cup a few months away, players on the fringes of squads all over Europe are looking for their best way to get regular first team football. Italy’s failure to qualify makes Darmian’s need to leave less pressing, although that doesn’t mean he is any less keen to find a place in someone’s starting XI.
It was his performances in the last World Cup that first attracted United to him in 2014. He played a blinder for Italy against England in their 2-1 win over Roy Hodgson’s team. Leighton Baines had his hands full all game, with Darmian’s constant threat down the right-flank often proving too much for the Everton man. United have relied on their attacking full-backs for decades, leading United supporters to believe he was made for the club.
Darmian had been in Torino’s first team for a few years before starring in Brazil and was well-known in Serie A, even if not in England. As a product of the AC Milan academy, fans had high hopes for him.
While he has put in some good performances, particularly at the start of his United career, he’s been an unpopular figure among the Old Trafford faithful for some time now.
United have been linked with a move with Juventus’ Alex Sandro and Darmian could be used as a bargaining chip. While the Brazilian is a left-back, Mourinho would likely be keen to offload Darmian in a swap, plus cash, deal knowing that he could deploy Young on the right, as he has done on occasion this season.
Sandro is apparently keen to ditch Juve this January and a number of clubs, including United and Chelsea, have made their interest known.
Mourinho voiced his frustration over rivals Manchester City spending on full-backs what other clubs pay for strikers in the summer, after signing Benjamin Mendy for £52 million and Kyle Walker for £50m.
He will be keen for United to break the bank to bring in a quality full-back after City, Chelsea and Liverpool have all outspent his club this season.
Still, United fans likely won’t be too concerned over who Mourinho thinks is worthy of being added to the squad if it means Darmian won’t be played any more. He hasn’t been good enough and if United are looking to compete in England and Europe, they need someone better than him.