This article is part of Football FanCast’s Pundit View series, which provides opinion and analysis on recent quotes from journalists, pundits, players and managers…
As quoted by the club’s official website, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has hailed Marcos Rojo after his impressive display against Partizan Belgrade.
The Argentina international was poised to leave Old Trafford in the summer, with fellow Premier League side Everton said to be in talks over a possible move. However, a deal for the defender failed to materialise by the end of the deadline, and Rojo was forced to remain put.
Now, the 29-year-old has seemingly forced his way into Solskjaer’s first-team plans, already making eight appearances across all competitions this season. And, after a display in which he made two interceptions, two clearances and one blocked shot in the Europa League on Thursday night, the Red Devils boss paid a glowing tribute to the forming Sporting CP man.
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He said: “I thought he was excellent tonight. He’s been excellent since he started in pre-season. He’s played more than he, maybe, expected. That’s why he’s still here and he’s a top-quality footballer.
“He’s a winner, with a good mentality, he can pass and he can defend. It’s now about keeping him fit and he’s been fit for a long time. You can see his qualities. 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.”
For a man who was rumoured to be heading for the exit for two summers in a row, it is quite remarkable how Rojo appears to have turned things around. The Argentine now appears to be battling Victor Lindelof for the chance to partner Harry Maguire in central defence for United, although playing in a back-three, Solskjaer could accommodate all three too.
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His robust approach to defending – he has a career average of 1.9 tackles per game – can give United a bit of ruggedness at the back to compliment the likes of Lindelof and Maguire. Reports in recent weeks have even suggested that Solskjaer has been left so impressed with what he has seen so far, that he will block a potential exit for Rojo in January. And after the 6 foot 2 man’s performance against Partizan in particular, it is easy to see why.