How Marcos Rojo has improved at Manchester United this season

by Leo Nieboer

Google defines ‘deadwood’ as “people or things that are no longer useful or productive.”

Such a definition was, I believe, an accurate description of Marcos Rojo back in August: now entering his third year at the club, without anything substantial to show for his time at the club so far, it was thought that – especially with Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly and Daley Blind all vying for a place at the back – he would slowly drift into complete anonymity.

But the Argentine, almost out of nowhere, has made himself heard at Old Trafford, and can now rightfully claim to be a fundamental component of Jose Mourinho‘s set-up at Manchester United.

A glance at Rojo’s stats sheds light on the monumental improvement he has made under the Portuguese this season.

It all started in earnest at the Liberty Stadium back in November. Rojo, with just one Premier League start under his belt after three months, was thrown into the starting XI alongside Phil Jones, prompting widespread remarks of concern and censure from supporters.

But the Argentine delivered a powerful performance, comfortably dismantling Swansea City’s front-line as Man United cruised to a 3-1 win. Since then he has made 17 appearances, displaying signs of improvement every week: bold, powerful, strong, growingly composed in possession and positionally astute – this is the kind of Rojo supporters expected to see back in 2014.

Few fans expected Rojo to become such an influential player under Mourinho this season but he’s proven all the critics and doubters wrong. Much like Chris Smalling under Louis van Gaal, Rojo’s improvement has been meteoric and completely unexpected in all the right ways.

Will Rojo still be here next season or is he filling a gap until Mourinho brings in another established centre-back? At this stage it would be unfair to have that conversation because he’s been arguably our second best defender behind Eric Bailly and I think he’ll play a crucial role between now and the end of the season still.

Either way, this season will be remembered for plenty of things and the drastic improvement of a player most fans wanted to be sold first this summer is certainly deserving of some praise.

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