Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown believes Marcos Rojo has been playing as if his life depends on it in recent weeks.
The Argentine was initially consigned to the periphery of proceedings under Jose Mourinho, has featured in every league game since Manchester United’s 0-0 draw with Burnley, forming a robust partnership with Phil Jones at the back.
Rojo came under fire from the watching world after escaping with just a yellow card for a dangerous two-footed lunge at Wilfried Zaha during Man United’s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace.
Keown, in his column for the Daily Mail, called on Rojo to maintain his rumbustious approach whilst also advising the 27-year-old to modify his tackling style.
“Rojo needs to be intelligent and adjust how he tackles,” he said.
“If I was his manager I would be tempted to get him on the training pitch and teach him to slide in on one side. He has had two big let-offs in recent weeks — at Everton and Palace — and has received a public grilling for those tackles.
“The Argentinian defender is a fool if he doesn’t try to do something about it. He is not the first player we have seen tackle this way. Rojo and his centre-back partner Phil Jones are like two bullies the way they defend.
“They don’t take any prisoners and are the unsung heroes in this Manchester United team. I don’t want Rojo to change the bullish manner in which he is playing.
“He is playing now as if his life depends on it and Jose Mourinho rewards players for their contribution in winning matches. But Rojo cannot afford to get suspended and give up his place to someone else as he might not get back in the team.”
Rojo, in the space of two weeks, has committed two straight red-offences – a two-footed lunge on Seamus Coleman and the aforementioned lunge at Zaha – and received just one yellow card in return. Extremely lucky, yes, but the football world – especially referees – will now be conscious of the Argentine’s predisposition to lunge at players with both feet in the air.
I mean, there may be a slight chance that Rojo just really, really hates Coleman and Zaha for whatever reason. But the likelihood is that this dangerous tackling method is something embedded in the Argentine’s bombastic defensive approach. And while Mourinho will undoubtedly admire his hands-on approach, he’ll be keen to eradicate this potentially harmful aspect from Rojo’s game.