Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may have inadvertently stumbled upon his best defensive partnership with Marcos Rojo at centre back alongside Harry Maguire.
Rojo made his eighth appearance of the season last Thursday evening and helped keep a clean sheet as the Reds beat Partizan Belgrade 3-0 at Old Trafford.
The 29-year-old has started all four of United’s matches in the Europa League and has played a pivotal part in ensuring that his team are the only side in the competition yet to concede a goal.
Speaking on the club’s official website after Thursday’s victory in his post match press conference, Solskjaer spoke in glowing terms about the South American.
The Norwegian said: “He’s got such a big heart and such a passion for football. He’s a winner. To have him around when he’s fit and in a good mood, it’s been great for us.
“The boys love him and he sometimes spreads fear in training because he tackles properly. He’s one of the ones who really cares about the game.”
The man signed from Sporting Lisbon in 2014 has also started both of United’s Carabao Cup ties, but he has only featured in two Premier League matches this season.
Both of his appearances in the league have come through injuries to his team mates.
He came on for Diogo Dalot on the hour mark in the defeat to Newcastle United and was given a start against Liverpool after Axel Tuanzebe pulled up in the warm up.
Could he make the position his own?
Following the signing of Maguire from Leicester City, plus the return of Tuanzebe from loan and the signing of Victor Lindelof’s new long-term contract, it looked like Rojo was destined to follow in the footsteps of Chris Smalling and leave the club.
At the weekend Rojo was overlooked again as Victor Lindelöf returned, but there was no clean sheet for United.
With question marks growing about Lindelöf’s physical vulnerabilities, there are no such concerns regarding Rojo’s ability to impose himself on opposing strikers, it’s a part of the game he relishes.
Another area where Rojo would aid Maguire would be his pace, he might not be as athletic as Tuanzebe, but he is quicker than Lindelöf and brings a no nonsense approach to his defending.
Having the Argentine alongside Maguire also gives Solskjaer the balance of playing both a left and right footed centre back.
While the 29-year-old is renowned for his aggressive front foot defending, he finished Thursday’s match with an impressive pass-completion rate of 91 per cent.
Rojo was also willing to step out of defence in possession and drive forward, giving United an extra body and impetus to their attacking play, which forced Partizan into making a decision and breaking out of defensive shape.
There have been times during his time in Manchester that Rojo’s rash approach to defending has proved his team’s downfall, but with Maguire next to him to talk him through matches, Rojo could prove to be the perfect partner for the worlds most expensive defender.
A centre back partnership that looked very unlikely to be even considered as an option at the start of the season could have all the makings to be the club’s best.
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