Rojo initially struggled and had a tough start to life at Sporting. We all could see he was technically excellent (considering he is a central defender) and his physical attributes were very good (fast and strong, which is a promising mix), however his positioning was poor, and as a team we were a total mess.
Jesualdo Ferreira was then appointed as coach. He had resigned as manager of Panathinaikos in November 2012 and is not considered one of the top coaches of Primeira Liga, but he could manage to bring a degree of organisation. We started to play as a team, which was not the case prior to his arrival. That was important for Rojo. He clearly needed some instruction and guidance, because he had previously appeared lost and uncertain. Rojo’s partner was Tiago Ilori (who signed for Liverpool at the end of the season), a former Sporting player from our Academy. Together, they formed a solid partnership. Ilori displayed more class than Rojo (Liverpool was right to sign him), but the truth is Rojo improved a lot. He finally managed to combine his natural ability (strength, speed, technique) for the benefit of the team. He was no more lost. Finally, we had a coach that could organise our defence.
Another managerial change was made at Sporting prior to the 2013-14 season, with Leonardo Jardim appointed our new coach. He is currently Monaco’s coach and is one of the top coaches in the world working on the team’s defensive process. That’s what he does best, actually. Rojo finally had a full season playing to a high standard. He made mistakes, most players do, but overall he played well. His head was in the right spot. He started to improve in the second half of the 2012-13 season and continued to build on that form under Jardim.
Primeira Liga has several competitive games (which is a surprise considering the league is not a top3 or even top5 League) and the quality of opponents helped Rojo improve physically. Right now, it’s difficult for any forward to win a 1×1 situation against him. He is good in the air, strong (when he has to make contact with the forward) and is fast. He was also more confident and more mature. This means right now he is a very good defender.
Why have I mentioned the coaches he has worked under? Consistency and a lack of maturity remain weaknesses, so the coach is the key. If van Gaal can organise the team and the defensive line properly, then Manchester United have got a fine footballer. He needs instruction/supervision, but in a good team, his technical and physical skills will be at the forefront and you will be happy with him. You will find him to be a complete central-defender. You will have problems if he is unable to follow van Gaal’s instruction and play with your guys as a team. He will lose positional sense, he will start to wonder (even into midfield) to win a tackle, leaving a hole in the defensive line.
One last point, Rojo played as a full-back at the World Cup for Argentina. I hadn’t mentioned it yet as I don’t believe his offensive skills are good enough for him to succeed in that position at a club like United. Your 3-5-2 system is actually a very good one for his skills. I imagine he will play as a central-defender, near the left and that will allow him to flourish, knowing that there are two central defenders to cover if he is dragged (vulnerability I mentioned earlier) out of position by an attacker.
I strongly believe Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones will make a good partnership in your defence. What I don’t know is if Jonny Evans will be a good third element. Taking Rojo’s abilities into account, he’ll need one (a third element).
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