Rojo bolsters Man United defence
Marcos Rojo became Manchester United's newest recruit on Wednesday after his arrival from Sporting Lisbon and could make the matchday squad for this weekend's visit to Sunderland. The Argentinian defender will join his third European club in four years and will find a squad desperately in need of a fillip.
- Kelly: Rojo a shrewd signing for United
Despite Lionel Messi incongruously winning the most valuable player award at the World Cup, by far the stand out feature of Argentina's campaign in Brazil was their defence. Rojo was an intergral part of that and played a key role in silencing Arjen Robben and new club teammate Robin van Persie in the semifinal.
During United's dreadful display against Swansea in their opening game of the Premier League season, they were routinely torn asunder by the talents of Wilfred Bony. It is hoped that Rojo will add some steel to what looked a fragile defence.
The 20 million euro price tag seems reasonable but comes with several provisos. Rojo is only 24 and has not won any club honours since he left Argentina five years ago. Indeed, almost two years at Spartak Moscow can only be considered a disappointing failure. His disciplinary record also indicates a lack of caution.
In his 49 games for Sporting, he managed to accumulate 21 yellow cards and four dismissals. While this is a mild concern, Nemanja Vidic was no shrinking violet when it came to the crunching tackle or odd flailing elbow either. Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans can occasionally appear sheepish and having an enforcer at the back will do no harm.
Despite his obvious grit, Rojo's playing style merits closer comparison with Rio Ferdinand. The World Cup finalist is comfortable on the ball and happy to launch attacks from the back. There are indications that he can lapse into showboating, but that may simply have been the folly of a young player. Louis van Gaal will surely coach that out of him.
In the other direction, United send Luis Nani for a season-long loan. The winger is perhaps the example of what can become of a player who fails to heed the advice of his coaches. Prone to flashes of brilliance and periods of anonymity in equal measure, the Portuguese will be remembered for a handful of spectacular goals and never taking a single match by the scruff of its neck.
Manchester United's squad remains painfully thin on quality and whilst Rojo's signing is good news, it is neither the answer to all United's problems nor a statement of intent.
It is good news that the new man can play the ball out of defence with composure, but who is he going to pass to? That is the next question United chief Ed Woodward needs to answer and fast; United will not make the top four with the midfielders they currently have.
In addition, United's present issues with injuries could see Rojo in action at the Stadium of Light this weekend. As a left-footer, he will provide on-going competition for Luke Shaw too.
After losing four defenders over the summer, the club have now spent more than 40 million pounds reinforcing that department. At some point, they will be expected to keep some clean sheets.
United were painfully exposed last weekend and, while it is always dangerous to assume that one signing is the answer, Rojo will certainly improve the squad and probably the first team too.
He is not, alas, the panacea United fans seek and it remains prudent to heed Van Gaal's preseason warning. It could take three months for this campaign to get going.