This article is part of Football FanCast’s In Numbers series, which takes a statistical look at performances, season-long form and reported transfer targets…
Since arriving from Sporting CP in the summer of 2014 for a reported £16m, Marcos Rojo hasn’t exactly established himself as part of the Manchester United first-team. The Argentina international has made just 116 appearances over his five-year stay at the club, and his wretched luck with injuries certainly hasn’t helped his cause either.
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The defender has been linked with a move to fellow Premier League side Everton for two consecutive summers, but both times a deal failed to materialise. And, after his particularly disappointing showing in the Europa League against AZ Alkmaar on Thursday night, the Red Devils may wonder if they made the wrong choice in keeping hold of him.
Lining up at centre-back alongside first-choice defender Victor Lindelof, Rojo looked ill at ease coming up against Alkmaar’s front-line. The Dutch side showed their attacking intent from the first whistle, and ended up registering 12 shots compared to United’s measly six.
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A lot of those efforts came through Rojo’s struggles in maintaining his position, and undoubtedly his versatility proved his downfall. Having played at left-back against FC Astana in the opening game of the competition, his switch into the middle of a back-four must surely have been disorientating. No stat perhaps tells that more clearly than the fact he made eight clearances, per Sofascore.
At first glance, that appears to be the hallmark of a great defender – getting rid of things when needed. But in digging deeper, it becomes clearer the Argentine struggled. The entire rest of the United side made just one more clearance than what Rojo managed, and that is largely as a result of the 29-year-old panicking when he had the ball at his feet. It is also no surprise to know he lost possession 13 times (the second-most of any player in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team).
On this evidence, the veteran really has no chance of usurping the current centre-back partnership between Lindelof and Harry Maguire. But perhaps even more worryingly for the Red Devils, is the realisation that they may well have been better off by simply cashing in on him this summer.