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Transfer Rater: Talisca to Manchester United

Football Whispers

Conte's last stand, trophy-hunter Mourinho on prowl

FA Cup

Marcos Rojo proves his worth to Jose Mourinho, Manchester United

When Ander Herrera put Manchester United 2-0 up against Chelsea on Sunday, the players huddled at the corner flag in celebration. The Spain international loves turning it on for the big games, having been named Man of the Match in United's showdowns with Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal this season, so was visibly delighted with the assist and goal he claimed against the league leaders.

As the celebrations came to an end and the players started to make their way back to the centre circle, Marcos Rojo turned to the Stretford End and starting thumping the air.

"Come on!" he shouted, before returning to Herrera for another celebratory hug.

Rojo put in a great performance at the back, showing he could go toe-to-toe with Diego Costa, whether defensively or theatrically. The Chelsea striker spends more time getting involved in spats with defenders than he does trying to score goals these days and Rojo was happy to oblige.

After a snide push from Costa that saw Eric Bailly go flying into the post, Rojo was seen protesting to the referee. The striker slapped Rojo's hand away, only for the defender reacting furiously, catching himself at the last moment before retaliating violently. Given a few of the clear red challenges he has escaped this season, it wouldn't have been a surprise to see the 27-year-old get a rush of blood.

Manchester UnitedManchester United
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While he's got a long way to go before being universally accepted, fans have begun to warm to Rojo. Given how little he was thought of though, that probably isn't too much an accomplishment.

With injuries to Chris Smalling and Bailly before the turn of the year, followed by the latter then going to the African Cup of Nations, United fans were faced with the prospect of a defensive pairing of Rojo and Phil Jones.

While the Argentina international had always performed better when playing centrally opposed to left-back, the months he spent in partnership with Jones saw him put in one solid performance after another.

That's not to say he's been flawless, with the aforementioned dodgy tackles and flimsy attempt at trying to deny Phil Jagielka's opening goal in the 1-1 draw against Everton, but he has began to endear himself to the fanbase.

The burnt toast and banana eating are funny quirks, and he can name the ever-popular Three Amigos -- Juan Mata, Herrera and David de Gea -- among his best mates at the club. But more than that, the passion he shows on the pitch earns him extra points, even if it doesn't completely negate questions over his ability.

Following the betrayals of Gabriel Heinze and Carlos Tevez, the former keen to leave United for Liverpool and the latter signing for Manchester City, chants of "Argentina!" haven't been heard too frequently from the Stretford End, but Sunday afternoon saw it return.

Marcos Rojo
Marcos Rojo has held his own when given the chance in Manchester United's first team.

After the game, with Jose Mourinho was clearly delighted that he had managed to outthink Antonio Conte, especially following the chants of "Judas" from the fans of the club where he is the most successful of all time, he singled the defenders out for praise.

In a season where he has been quick to point out the flaws of his players, Mourinho's approval is certainly worth something.

"Everybody fought really hard. Bailly and Rojo, I think they deserve a special mention because they have played in absolutely every game, non-stop," he said.

In the summer, United will surely be looking to bring in an experienced centre-half to bring more stability and order to the back four. Rojo may well have just seen himself climb above Smalling and Jones in pecking order though.

Mourinho likes a reliable grafter and the English defenders have shown that, as has been the case for several seasons, their proneness to injury makes them difficult to depend upon. He was less than impressed with Luke Shaw for pulling out of the Swansea game, yet.

When you measure Rojo against some of the defenders Premier League rivals have purchased in recent years, he fares rather well. Compare him to the £47.5 million spent on John Stones, £40m Eliaquim Mangala and the £32m on Nicolas Otamendi, and the £16m Rojo cost United is a bargain.

Mourinho has a decent defender who will do whatever is asked of him. He may not be the manager's first choice next season but he's doing enough to warrant a place in his good books at the moment.

Scott is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @R_o_M.


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