Who The Hell Is Marcos Rojo?

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In the spring of 1990, just after Mark Robins had saved Alex Ferguson’s (there was no knighthood them days) job as Manchester United manager,

a baby called Faustino Marcos Alberto Rojo entered the world in a La Plata hospital.

A lot has happened both men in the intervening years. Ten years later, Ferguson had an unprecedented treble (and that knighthood) under his belt, while the young Argentinian had just joined his local club Estudiantes.

During his eleven years there, Rojo would be regaled by tales of Old Trafford and European football by Juan Sebastian Veron. The defender made his move to Europe at just 21, signing for Spartak Moscow in a £3.5 million deal. He endured a torrid spell in Russia, limited to just eight league appearances, before surprisingly moving to Sporting Lisbon the following season.

His first campaign in Portugal was equally disastrous. Ill-discipline and poor form contributed to Sporting’s worst season in their 106-year history, with Rojo looking more comfortable at left-back than in his preferred central defence.

However, the 24-year-old came of age last season. He began to curb his indiscipline and became a rock in the centre of the league runner-up’s defence, adding a threat at set-pieces to his game – he scored five goals last term. He was a central figure down the spine of their side, along with another United target William Carvalho.

However, Sporting fans and Portuguese football observers have expressed surprise at his move to Old Trafford and the fee involved. United have paid around £16 million for his services, on top of Nani’s £5 million wages for the season.

Indeed, Lisbon supporters have flocked to message boards to convey their excitement at the deal – Nani was a hero at the Estádio José Alvalade and the club believe they have a ready-made replacement for Rojo in French youngster Nabby Sarr.

So, what kind of player are United getting?

The Manchester club have a chequered history with Argentine signings, not least Veron, and have experience in signing Argentinian defenders who were unloved at Sporting in the form of Gabriel Heinze.

While Argentina prefer Rojo at left-back, where he played and made the Castrol team of the tournament at the recent World Cup, he became a big influence last term at Sporting in the centre of defence.

His admirers, who include Diegos Maradona and Simeone, also feel he’s at his best at left-back but it’s presumed Louis van Gaal has signed him for the left sided central berth in his 3-5-2 system.

Rojo will add pace and a physicality to United’s defence and may prove to be a cult hero with fans for his no-nonsense approach.

However, despite his improved record, expect a plethora of cards as he adjusts to the English game – he picked up an extraordinary 21 bookings and four sending-offs in just 49 league appearances for Sporting.

Indeed, he picked up a suspension during the World Cup after just four matches.

He’s not short of confidence as this “rabona” clearance will attest…

…and has a composure on the ball lacking at Old Trafford after the departures of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. The Serbian, along with Patrice Evra, took six months to settle in English football and it will be no surprise if it takes Rojo a similar period to adjust.

Observers suggest he will prosper under a disciplinarian manager such as van Gaal and could become the club’s new Vidic. Some underwhelmed fans, however, feel he could be the new Buttner.

However, if there’s one good thing to come out of the deal for United fans it’s that Nani has left, at least for a season. And it should be an exciting campaign, tracking the antics and development of Faustino Marcos Alberto Rojo.