4 interceptions: United linked Darmian shows van Gaal his value in unnatural position

Torino FC bus

Reported Manchester United target Matteo Darmian lined up at centre-back for Italy in Sunday’s draw with Croatia.

Last month, Torino legend Marco Ferrante labeled Matteo Darmian as Italy’s best full-back by miles, noting how quickly the 24-year-old has become a fixture in the Azzurri.

After working his way into the Italy World Cup squad on the back of an impressive 2013-14 campaign, Darmian has been indispensible for his country.

He’s started every game for the Azzurri dating back to their doomed summer campaign in Brazil under Cesare Prandelli, remaining a key player with Antonio Conte now in charge.

Darmian has maintained his international presence with the help of his stunning form for Torino, which reportedly caught the eye of Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal.

An injury crisis and inconsistency mean that the Dutchman’s back-line has been out of sorts ever since his arrival at Old Trafford in the summer.

Meanwhile, Darmian continues to be a force of nature. Consider that least season he missed only 134 of the 3,420 total minutes on offer for the Granata in Serie A.

Along with his incredible fitness, one of the reasons van Gaal is believed to have targeted Darmian is his versatility – something he showed for his nation at the week-end.

With a slew of injuries decimating the Italy defence, Darmian slotted in at centre-back alongside Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Ranocchia in a 1-1 draw with Croatia.

It’s a position the AC Milan youth product has played in before for country, deployed there last month as well opposite Malta by coach Conte, who prefers a three-man back line.

Against Croatia, Darmian showed once again he is a serviceable option in a centre-back role. Though his typical attacking contributions were nullified, he was effective in defence.

The 24-year-old came up with four interceptions, three clearances and a tackle as Croatia were dangerous going forward, helping Italy come away with a valuable point.

Darmian’s passing was most accurate of the Azzurri’s three central defenders at 82%, while he added two accurate long balls on three attempts.

Considering that the Italian is most renowned for his attacking displays as a wing-back in a 3-5-2, it was a display that deserves recognition – reinforcing his versatile reputation.

Having a player with such powers at his disposal would be a boon for van Gaal, who started out with a three-man defence at United but has since changed to a back four.

Not only is a Darmian excellent on the wing on a weekly basis, but can clearly provide cover in the centre if need be – with experience playing in a variety of formations to boot.

Darmian’s transfer value has been said to be as high as £15 million since he was first linked with United in October, with Torino requiring a sizeable sum to let him go in January.

His proven ability to perform all over the pitch is a factor that serves to keep his price-tag high, and United will have to decide whether to pay a premium to in order to get a player of Darmian’s mould on their books.

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