Saturday, 11 July 2015

Welcome to Manchester, Matteo.


It wouldn't have been at all surprising if fans were scratching their heads and rushing to football sources online when it was rumoured that United were showing interest in signing a certain Italian full-back from Torino.

It's one of those names that is familiar, but not at the forefront of the minds of fans when considering possible new defensive additions at United. All that is about to change as Matteo Darmian becomes the second purchase of the summer made by Louis van Gaal on a four year contract with the option of a further year.

All talk had been centered on the likes of Coleman, Otamendi and Ramos and while the fans were waiting for news of a big defensive buy this one sneaked under the radar.

So who is the 25-year-old that Louis van Gaal considers perfect for the right-back position.

Born in 1989 in Legnano, Italy. Darmian was trained at a young age by his father who just happened to also be a coach. At the age of 11 he was spotted by A.C. Milan and was invited to join their youth system and progressed well enough to make his debut for the Milan giants in a 'Coppa Italia' match as a substitute at the age of 16 in 2006.

The young Italian had to bide his time for his Serie A debut and that came one year later in the last month of the 2006-07 season again as a substitute this time in a defeat at the hands of Udinese.

Over the next two seasons, he would only go on to make a few more first team appearances for Milan and was eventually loaned out to Padova then in Serie B of the Italian league. He made a total of twenty outings in the 2009-10 season, chipping in with one goal. Darmian helped Padova avoid relegation by winning a relegation play-off.

At the end of his loan season, it was announced that the defender would be allowed to join Palermo therefore returning to Serie A for around €800,000. He had to bide his time to make his debut which eventually came in an Europa League match against Sparta Prague that the Italians lost. His Serie A debut for the club was a happier event as he came on for Pastore in a 3-1 win over Juventus.

His first start for the club was on the 6th February, ironically a significant date for United, 2011, but he picked up an injury and had to be withdrawn. In the 2010-11 season, he only made a total of 16 appearances in all competitions for the club. He needed to get a run going, but would have to look elsewhere to find it. Enter Torino.

Originally the transfer was another loan deal as his contract was owned by both A.C. Milan and Palermo. Once an agreement between those clubs had been reached he became a Torino player for €825,000.

Over the next four years Darmian would prove his value to Torino and go on to make a total of 133 appearances with the majority coming last season in which he made a massive 47 and contributed with 5 goals from his full-back position.

When you consider that he had only scored one goal in his previous three seasons, not a bad return. Finally, it seemed he had found a club where he felt settled and started to garner attention from some top Europen clubs.

It's not only at Torino where he worth has risen Darmian has also earned rave reviews for the Italian national team having made a total of 13 appearances over the last two seasons making his debut for the Azzurri against the Republic of Ireland in May 2014. He followed that up with an inclusion in Italy's World Cup squad and played in the opening match against England which they won 2-1.

He played in the remaining two group games, but Italy lost both and were out of the competition. It wasn't all doom and gloom as he was awarded the prestigious 'Pallone Azzurro' award as the best player of the Italian national team for 2014.

What can the United fans expect from the Italian? Darmian has the ability to play at either right or left-back, but it's on the right where he seems the most comfortable. In an emergency, he is also able to fill in as a centre-back.

He certainly doesn't lack pace and his engine has never come into question. At almost 6 feet tall, his height offers an aerial advantage in both defence and attack, and attacking is something that he relishes being involved in.

There is only a handful of Italians that have tried their luck at Old Trafford and Matteo has a great chance to make a success of his career as a Red Devil.

If he's anywhere near as successful as the last player United signed from Torino then his future at Old Trafford is bright, a certain Denis Law who also signed for United 53 years ago almost to the day.

Benvenuto a Manchester, Matteo and Good Luck.

Miles Dunton.