Which Red can reach the level of Kylian Mbappe?
Former Manchester United defender Matteo Darmian is convinced Old Trafford hero Marcus Rashford can reach the level of Kylian Mbappe and challenge for future Ballon d’Or awards.
That prestigious prize has won by Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo in 11 of the last 12 years, with Luka Modric interrupting their flow in 2018. While it would be foolish to rule any of the trio out, it’s only logical to suggest their advancing years will lead to fresh winners in the near future.
Rashford is currently enjoying the best season of his career and, at 22 years of age, the Reds striker is improving all the time. Further development is needed to enter the Ballon d’Or running, naturally, yet his old team-mate Darmian is adamant that Marcus can reach those heights.
“I immediately thought: ‘Wow, this is an incredible player.’ He did so many impressive things for a player of his age and the way he improved in every detail really impressed me.
“If he continues to work the way he has done so far he can be a Ballon d’Or winner. I’m convinced of this. He impressed me the most of all the players at United. He’s very young and can still improve. For me he can reach the level of Kylian Mbappe and compete for the Ballon d’Or for years to come.”
One man who knows all about goalscoring and fulfilling potential is Andy Cole, so we asked the Treble for his thoughts on Matteo comparing Rashford’s potential with that of Mbappe.
“Anything is possible,” said Coley, speaking on Monday’s MUTV Group Chat. “Mbappe is young himself, but you can see the difference in levels between them two already.
“Marcus can close that gap gradually. You never know what’s possible in this game, you’re always improving. United are going to get better, Marcus will get better. He’s come out and said that’s his preferred position. If that’s the position he wants to play in, he can only improve in that position.”
MORE FROM MATTEO
Darmian joined United in 2015 and enjoyed four seasons at the club, winning the Emirates FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League along the way. The Italy international left for Parma last summer, in search of first-team football, but only has good things to say about his time as a Red. Check out some of the highlights from his interview with the Guardian’s Fabrizio Romano…
AN EMOTIONAL UNITED DEBUT
“I’ll be honest and say that I remember my first game for United being an incredible emotion,” says Darmian in the Guardian. “I felt like a child. Old Trafford is something fantastic, there’s a reason that it’s called the Theatre of Dreams. My debut was perfect because we beat Tottenham at home and I heard the fans screaming my name: a wonderful feeling. I felt a lot of pride but also the responsibility to play for one of the best clubs in the world.”
“I can only speak well about Solskjaer, believe me,” Matteo explains. “I would give him a long-term contract. He’s a very prepared coach and Manchester United has started this project, this journey, with many young players, many British players and they will continue with this project. Because of the person I got to know, I hope Solskjaer has success at the club.”
POGBA CARES ABOUT UNITED
“Paul is my friend and I have an excellent relationship with him. First of all: we are talking about a real champion here, a great footballer, but even they can have some periods when they don’t do as well [as they would like]. The real problem with Pogba at United, I think, was the price the club paid for him and that conditioned the way people perceived him.
“There has been a lot of unjustified criticism towards Pogba, for example that he doesn’t work hard enough, but he always gave his best, I can assure you, in every training session. In my opinion his performances were good in recent years, they talk about him too negatively [in the UK].
“Did I see Pogba unhappy or willing to leave? No, I honestly didn’t see him sad or unhappy, quite the opposite, for all the time I was in Manchester, Paul was absolutely happy with his decision to go back there. He really cares about doing well at Manchester United.”
LIFE IN LOCKDOWN WITH PARMA
“It’s a very complicated situation unfortunately,” Darmian says. "I’m spending the quarantine at home like everyone else. With my family and our young child which always keeps us busy, so we are never bored. We have a balcony, so we can go out and get some fresh air when the weather permits it. Will Serie A be able to finish or will the season be voided? Well, now the most important thing is health and we must focus on that rather than the league. Everything else comes after that.”
Matteo Darmian was speaking to the Guardian.