Darmian is showing he is a top pro for United
Matteo Darmian was the epitome of a top professional when playing at centre-back during Manchester United's Emirates FA Cup third-round victory over Reading last weekend.
Although he admitted beforehand it’s a position he hasn’t played much in the past, the Italian was highly praised by fans on social media and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for his composed display alongside Phil Jones in Saturday’s 2-0 win.
It was the 29-year-old’s first appearance under caretaker manager Solskjaer, and he helped the Reds keep a clean sheet for the second successive match in 2019.
With Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo injured and Eric Bailly suspended, Ole also decided to give Victor Lindelof a rest after five successive starts.
But he felt Matteo’s impressive performance at the heart of the defence was the biggest positive against the Royals.
“He [Darmian] is the biggest plus today,” Solskjaer told MUTV after the game.
“Matteo looked like he had played there before for a long time.
“As an Italian, he’s very cultural and very calm on the ball. He was one of the few that at times tried to settle us down and pass the ball. I don’t think he put a foot wrong.”
Speaking to us before the game, Matteo explained he hadn’t played much at centre-back during his career so far but insisted he would always help the team wherever he was needed.
“I can play there,” said Darmian.
“Of course I play at right-back and left-back, for me it doesn’t matter. I try to do my best every time and I try to help the team to reach the victory.
“Sometimes I’ve played in a back three so it’s not a problem for me. Of course I’m more of a defender than an attacking player, but I have to help the team.”
Darmian is part of a strong squad that Solskjaer has inherited, packed with talent in every position. He was ready to perform a fairly unfamiliar role against Reading and feels his team-mates must also be prepared to do whatever is necessary to fulfil the team’s needs during a busy period.
“We have 25 or 26 very good players,” our no.36 said.
“It doesn’t matter who plays from the beginning but everyone has to be ready, especially in the Premier League and in England because we have a lot of games so everyone has to be ready.”
The Reds, who have won all five games under Solskjaer so far, are currently in Dubai for a warm weather training camp ahead of Sunday’s tough Premier League test against Tottenham Hotspur.
And Darmian believes the break in the United Arab Emirates is hugely beneficial for the squad, especially after the hectic festive period.
“Of course, when you play every three days, you have no time to train and maybe prepare well for the games but now we have one week to prepare well, not just for the next game but I think for the next month.
“Of course, it’s a good way to train in good weather and we can enjoy it as well. Staying together, it’s an opportunity to increase our group spirit. I think we are a good group, we are very good guys so I think the group spirit is one of the keys to winning some trophies and [getting some] victories.”
The Reds put our 100 per cent record under Ole to the test against Mauricio Pochettino’s in-form Tottenham team at Wembley Stadium on Sunday afternoon, hoping to avenge August’s 3-0 defeat in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford.
“I think it’s a very good game and an important game for us against a rival,” said Darmian of the upcoming game against Spurs.
“It would be three massive points [if we win] and we have to prepare ourselves in a good way. We have to be focused and, of course, we will be going there for the victory.”
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