Nobody expected to see Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pick Matteo Darmian as a centre-back against Reading.
Yet that’s exactly what the interim Manchester United boss did and the Italian was a pleasant surprise.
United were short of options with Victor Lindelöf rested, Eric Bailly suspended, and Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo injured.
We had even wondered if it might mean a debut for youngster Ro-Shaun Williams.
It was a bit underwhelming to see Darmian in the makeshift role on the teamsheet, but he proved why Solskjaer trusted him.
Darmian was composed and steady against an admittedly poor Reading side as United kept a clean sheet in a 2-0 win at Old Trafford.
It was a disjointed performance from United, which often happens when so many changes are made to the team at once.
Darmian’s efforts were one of the few bright spots to emerge from the game and he could end up being used in the position in an emergency in the future.
Solskjaer praised him, telling the club website he saw him as the biggest positive.
He said: “He was the biggest plus today you have to say. Of course Romelu got the goal, but Matteo looked like he had played centre-back for a while.
“He’s a cultured Italian and very calm on the ball. He was one of the few who settled us down and tried to pass it and I don’t think he put a foot wrong.”
Here is a look at how United fans reacted to Darmian’s performance…
Darmian was class today at CB. Didn’t put a foot wrong. #MUFC
— Kash 🤙🏼 (@KasharRaja) 6 January 2019
The only surprise takeaway for me from this Reading game is that Darmian can be awesome if given some game time. And I know Rojo is awesome when fit too. With Bailly, Lindelof, Darmian and Rojo, we actually do have good CB options. We just need a good RB. Just my opinion #MUFC pic.twitter.com/NG8Dl1CTwB
— United Always (@UnitedAlways1) 5 January 2019
Darmian did pretty well at cb. looked comfortable, like he’s playing there all season long. standout player alongside Young and Romero for me #mufc
— Yana (@YanaJrHimself) 5 January 2019
I can’t believe not 1 person has said how well Darmian done today?! He is a full back that gets barely any game time & come in at CB today & was far better then Jones!! Special shout to him for his performance today & well done Olè for bigging him up post match! #MUFC #FACup 🔴⚽️
— Elliott Holdsworth (@elliott_h123) 5 January 2019
Positives from today’s game;
1) 3/4 of the team that played won’t be anywhere near the starting XI for Spurs
2) Matteo Darmian
But we are in the 🎩 which is all that matters!!! #MUFC 🇾🇪❤️
— Jo (@YorkieRed_Jojo) 5 January 2019
— SolskjaerUtd (@SoIskjaerUtd) 5 January 2019
Darmian was the man of the match imo. Solid performance. #mufc
— Muzza ManUtd (@TheMUFCManiac) 5 January 2019
— Pete O’Brien (@PeteOBrien82) 5 January 2019