In the early stages of this season, Matteo Darmian had Manchester United fans thinking we’d really solved our right-back problems.
The Italian was excellent and showed the sort of consistency which eluded Rafael da Silva, up until Arsenal away where he crumbled and was taken off at half-time by Louis van Gaal.
Later in the season, the emergence of Guillermo Varela came as a really pleasant surprise for us all. Zinedine Zidane was impressed by him during a loan at Real Madrid’s B-side last season and we all started to see why.
Dynamic going forward and full of energy, Varela brought a real attacking spark to our right-flank. Although his defensive positioning needed polishing, he won over a lot of fans with his performances and that leads to a question now which van Gaal has to decide between now and the end of the season:
Who is our first choice right-back when fit – Varela or Darmian?
I get the feeling this is a question which is likely to split quite a lot fans.
On the one hand, you’ve got Darmian – a more polished and rounded full-back who, when on form, gives you everything you need defensively from a right-back who occasionally runs forward.
On the other, you’ve got Varela – a bit of a wildcard in comparison, somebody who likes nothing more than to bomb down the flank and overlap the right-winger to get into an aggressive position in attack.
For me, I’d choose Darmian. Casting my mind back to the start of the year, I was so impressed by Darmian. He was one of our best early season performers alongside fellow full-back Luke Shaw and I couldn’t believe nobody had snapped him up already. As much as Varela has impressed me as well, it hasn’t been to the same extent as Darmian did.
The problem for Darmian is that he’s never been able to find that early season rhythm again and now, on merit, Varela is ahead of him in the pecking order.
Varela is on a really steady upward curve in his career. He’s three years younger than Darmian, 23, and has now received his first call-up to Uruguay’s squad which he’ll want to keep from now on. The only way that’ll happen is if he continues to play for United.
I can see the positives and negatives of both Varela and Darmian but when they’re on-form, right now I’d choose to have Darmian in the team. Who would you have in yours?