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For Manchester United, Marcos Rojo Resurgent

Tuesday 18th April 2017
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has a reputation for being defensive-minded. True or not, he has always had a strong defensive line at his disposal wherever he has been. He may still be sculpting his defence at Old Trafford but one man who has staked claim to his place is Argentina's Marcos Rojo.

Ricardo Carvalho and John Terry. Lucio and Walter Samuel. Pepe and Sergio Ramos. All have plied their trade under Mourinho. All are centre back partnerships as formidable as they come. All epitomise what the Portuguese manager looks for in a central defender. Strong and fearless with a never-say-die attitude, they fall into the time-honoured "run through a brick wall for the team" cliché. You wouldn't put it past Pepe to take the phrase literally.

Mourinho sought out such defenders when he arrived in Manchester on a quest to bring the title back to United. The Portuguese has already acquired Eric Bailly. The Ivorian has shown his steel and class at a very young age. His most recent defensive partner had previously endured an indifferent time since arriving in English football in 2014. Louis Van Gaal bought Marcos Rojo from Sporting but his best form has come under his current boss.

The jury was out on Rojo before the season began. He wasn't favoured to start at centre half, less so at left back. Following countless shaky performances under Van Gaal and having developed a reputation for rash tackles and hotheadedness, he could have left the club with few fans objecting.

However, Mourinho was reluctant to sell any player without first offering him a chance to impress. Rojo has repaid his new manager's faith. At Swansea in November, he was preferred over Chris Smalling in the middle. The game proved to be the Argentinian's catalyst. He has since played in the position more than any other for The Red Devils simply because he has been Mourinho's most reliable defender, both in terms of performance and injury.
While his fellow centre halves have suffered their fair share of knocks, Rojo's fitness has seen him selected more often. More importantly, his performance has warranted consistent selection. A warrior at the back, he hasn't shirked a challenge all season long. At times, his combativeness has put him in hot water, especially with notably dangerous challenges away at Everton and Crystal Palace.

Controversial tackles aside, Rojo has been a rock for his side, deploying a traditional no-nonsense style to his manager's delight. Mourinho has never been one for risky passing from his defenders. That's why David Luiz was exiled to Paris. Mou prefers his defenders hard-nosed. Concentrate on stopping the opposition first. Every now and then, bring the ball out from the back when the job is done. Rojo continuously wins the ball early, either quickly releasing to a nearby teammate or clearing the danger completely. He has met Mourinho's standard all season.

Whether Mourinho looks to bring in a central defender this summer or not remains to be seen (he will), but the Argentinian's form lessens his urgency. Marcos Rojo has propelled himself to the top of the pile in Manchester United's defensive corps.
Ryan Stewart

23 years old, Sport Journalism graduate living in Salford. Work in web content in Media city and always looking to break in to sports writing. Manchester United season ticket holder.

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