From La Plata to Man United, Marcos Rojo's football journey
LA PLATA, Argentina -- The photo was sent from the Old Trafford dressing room five minutes into the second half of Sunday's Manchester derby.
"Have you seen it?" asks Marcos Rojo's mum, Carina, who shakes her head and passes her phone. The eldest of her three children has sent a picture of two metal staples holding together a gash across his forehead. It's been closed and there is a large bump.
"[David] Silva," says Rojo's brother, Becho. "They banged heads. There was a lot of blood. That is why [Marcos] had to leave the field. He'll be OK. He's tough, my brother."
Despite initial worries as she watched her son lying on the field with blood spilling from his head, Carina has been assured by Marcos that the injury is not too serious.
"It looks worse than what it is," she says. "I was frightened the cut had gone through to the bone. It's nothing like as serious as the last injury."
Carina shakes her head at the memory of Rojo's ACL injury, which he suffered in April.
"That was really bad," says Carina. "I flew to see him in Manchester and then we went to Oporto in Portugal for the operation. Then I went back to Manchester with him. He was very concerned about that injury; we all were."
Rojo missed seven months before making a successful return to Manchester United's first team.
"I knew he would be OK when I saw him dancing with his crutches at the [Europa League] final," says his mum.
Carina didn't watch the derby at home.
"We don't have the right channel here so I went to the football club," she says. "I've always watched my son play. At Malvinas, at Estudiantes. We went to every game. Marcos' father was a footballer too. He supports Boca Juniors and tried to get Marcos to be a Boca fan, but he became an Estudiantes fan. He joined that club when he was 11. I didn't want him to leave here and go to Russia (to join Spartak Moscow) but he went because he said it would be a good step to playing for a big European club. He left here in the middle of summer and arrived in Russia in the middle of winter. He couldn't speak a word of Russian.
"I was happier when he moved to Lisbon," continues Carina. "And I was happy when he moved to Manchester. There was another English club (Southampton) who wanted him but he waited. I'd not heard about Manchester United until a journalist said to me: 'You realise that your son has just joined the biggest club in the biggest league in the world?' I had no idea! Of course I was proud of him, but I'm proud of all my children.
Carina becomes emotional as she recalls watching her son play for his country in the World Cup -- "It was one of the greatest moments of my life" -- and, behind her, a wall is covered in framed posters, the biggest of which sees Marcos alongside Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Sergio Romero, Javier Mascherano, Gonzalo Higuain, Javier Pastore and his other international teammates at Brazil 2014.
"They did very well to reach the final," she says. "But you can't win all the time."
Brother Becho has met Messi but hasn't forgiven him for scoring the winner against Estudiantes in extra time of the 2009 FIFA Club World Cup final. Earlier in the game, the Argentine club were a minute from being world champions, only for Pedro to equalise and Messi to net a disputed winner.
"It was never a goal," Becho says with a sigh.
When you speak to people in Triunfo, the barrio of La Plata where Rojo was raised and where his family live, almost all say that he was the best player to come out of the neighbourhood.
"Everyone wanted him in the team," says his friend Pela, one of the few people not wearing Manchester United shorts with No. 5 -- Rojo's number -- on them. "We played right there."
Pela points to a scrap of land where the words "Becho" and "Marcos" have been painted on a wall above where a dog sleeps in the sun.
Franco Nicholas Rojo, who has been known as Becho since his brother gave him the nickname, shows me around the neighbourhood that Marcos describes as "humble." Becho knows everyone and stops to speak to almost all of them.
"It was getting quite dangerous here with thieves, but there are more police now and it's more tranquil," he says.
We visit his uncle's house, where dogs wander around the front garden and chickens are in the back. near the outside toilet. Marcos has written "Marquitos" on the wall.
"Marcos and I played behind here all the time until they built some houses," says Becho as he points to a rough piece of land.
On another wall, a large mural has been painted that features Rojo in a half Estudiantes, half Argentina shirt. He was part of the Estudiantes squad that won the 2009 Copa Libertadores, aged just 19 and playing alongside the great Juan Sebastian Veron.
In the picture Rojo is doing a rabona, kicking the ball with one foot that is wrapped around the back of the other. He's famous for the trick in La Plata but, while he did it for Argentina in the World Cup, he doesn't get to show it off too much at United.
At the Malvinas club, whose first team play in Argentina's sixth division, Jorge the coach explains how Rojo paid for a watering system and speaks proudly of him.
"I'm happy he is a Red Devil because we have the Red Devils of Independiente here too," says Jorge. "I've known Marcos since he was four and he was always so determined. He'd cry when the games ended because he wanted to play more. I've never had another player like that."
Rojo's mother misses her son.
"I like going to see him in Manchester," says Carina as she offers mate, a caffeine-rich drink taken through a metal straw. "I saw his debut in that wonderful stadium in Manchester. He's happy there with his family and his daughter speaks perfect English. But I love to get my boy home at the end of the season. We miss him so much. He comes straight here and asks me to make him his favourite meals, one with rice and another that is a kind of Milanesa.
"He's a good boy, Marcos," she continues. "He worked hard at school and never had to repeat a year. The only time he had to do extra school was when he was in Estudiantes' first team. He was missing school for three days to play in the Libertadores in Peru. But I'm not surprised he's done well. He's had a football at his feet since he could walk. He was a goalkeeper when he was three. He joined Estudiantes at 10. Estudiantes is very important here and we were delighted when he called us to say he was going into the first team. It was so emotional. He's the only professional footballer from this barrio."
Fans around the world saw Rojo's tattoo covered torso on Sunday as he left the field.
"I wasn't happy when he started getting tattoos," said his mother, but he has a way with me. "'Mami, he said, the tattoo is of your name.'"
Andy Mitten is a freelance writer and the founder and editor of United We Stand. Follow him on Twitter: @AndyMitten.