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Manchester United and Liverpool were both in the market for a right-back in the recent transfer window. The 2 English giants got their men with Liverpool signing Nathaniel Clyne and United snapping up Italian International, Matteo Darmian. Nathaniel Clyne vs Matteo Darmian has been a recurring question. Vatsal Dani attempts to answer it ahead of this weekend’s clash between the 2 sides.

It has been a whirlwind summer in the north-west of England as the traditional powerhouses of English football again spent quite a fortune on players in order to regain the domestic supremacy. Liverpool and Manchester United, both, ironically were in the market for similar kind of players. And with the rivalry that is so deeply entrenched amongst the fans, comparisons are bound to happen.

Darmian Clyne

Although there were rumours of both the teams going for same players throughout the transfer window, there was one player in which both the teams reportedly had strong interest until the Reds of Manchester backed off. It might potentially look a victory of sorts for the Merseysiders, but it was anything but that as Manchester United surprised one and all by signing Torino’s right back, Matteo Darmian.

Nathaniel Clyne was one of the best full-backs in the league last season and was tipped to leave St. Mary’s for his big ticket move to the aristocracy of English football. He was bookies favourite to sign for United till the Reds’ interest cooled off as they went for their other ‘long-term’ target, in Italian International Matteo Darmian. And so it was, Clyne went to Anfield while a relatively unknown (to the people in the British Isles and large swathes of United fanbase) Darmian was welcomed at Old Trafford.

First Impressions

Clyne has been outstanding for Southampton in last couple of seasons. It was a matter of time when he too, like his former teammates, would leave the south coast to chase his dreams. And so he did as he joined Liverpool for a relatively reasonable fee of £12.5 million.

The Englishman has settled in quite comfortably at Anfield evident by the good start made. He has arguably been Liverpool’s best player in the league till now. Rodgers finally has found his right full-back/wing-back after experimenting with quite a few players last season. It was somewhat expected that England’s numero uno right-back would settle in quite easily at Anfield. The main reason for this expectation is Rodgers’ style of play which gives his full-backs considerable freedom to express themselves.

And he hasn’t disappointed till now, with his defensive solidity and superb crossing giving Liverpool much needed width, something they’ve sorely lacked in the past couple of seasons. Along with him being a sound defender and good crosser, the one quality which makes him a valuable acquisition is his relentlessness. The Cockney defender is a tireless machine and it is his graft which will help the players like Roberto Firmino and Phillipe Coutinho thrive and run riot. The simplicity in Clyne’s game is his prime virtue and the reason why he is being regarded as the next big thing for England and Liverpool.

The general consensus amongst the Anfield faithful and players is that Clyne is one of the best signings of the summer for Liverpool. Former Liverpool man John Aldridge echoes the same sentiments, when he claimed Clyne as the best player for the Reds.

“I think Nathaniel Clyne has been Liverpool’s best player in the opening two Premier League games. It’s great to see a full-back with that energy and that defensive ability, very little gets past him. I think he’s going to prove a fantastic buy for Liverpool,” Aldridge explained.

On the other hand, Matteo Darmian has taken the league by storm after putting in some stellar displays on that right-side for Manchester United. Darmian, like Clyne, was bought for the similar price as Red Devils paid £12.7 million to Torino for his services.

A late bloomer, Darmian has been the best right-back in Italy for quite some time. After bursting onto the scene as the 16 year-old prodigy from AC Milan’s academy, it has been a rocky decade for him. Milan released him for a paltry compensation to Palermo, where he slowly and steadily got his act together. Torino was quick to snap him up from Palermo and transformed the failed Milan prospect into a world-class defender.

He was at his imperious best last season when he played for Torino in the Europa League and also represented his nation against England, in Brazil. Darmian’s strengths are his defensive nous and his strong positional sense. It is clear from his style of play, that he is somehow present at the right place at the right time. Moreover, we shouldn’t forget his versatility in terms of position and tactics. There are very few defenders who possess such versatility with quality.

His game oozes the defensive organization which is synonymous with Italians, since forever. The way he links up with Juan Mata down the right flank is quite commendable, especially adjusting to Spaniard’s lack of industry and pace giving him minimal cover is testament to his abilities. The Italian has impressed one and all with his performances in the month of August. And this hasn’t gone unnoticed as he was nominated for the Player of Month award at Manchester United.

These are few of the reasons why he is rated very highly by the likes of Antonio Conte, his national team coach and Louis van Gaal, who described him as a ‘value for money’ signing. Speaking to,

“Yes, I am very happy that you discovered this because I didn’t read that when the deal was announced,” the manager pointed out. “He was not a big player in Italy, he was a rising star. He is a late developer, but it is true, the market of a player is difficult to describe.

“A profile of a full-back is that first he has to defend and then secondly that he has to build up,” the boss said.

“Thirdly, he has to attack and give an option to his fellow players in front of him. A player like Juan Mata, who is playing there, needs that fellow player. The full-back has to give him options so that Mata then also has more options. That is the profile of a full back of Manchester United.”


There is a saying in Thai which roughly translates to ‘We are same-same but different’. This saying is perfect to sum up our analysis of these two fine individuals. Both Clyne and Darmian have their share of similarities which ought to be found in crème la crème fullbacks but there are some decisive differences between them. His versatility and sense of reading the game being the prime attributes and this has even led to comparisons with the legendary Gary Neville.

Darmian is still getting accustomed to the rigours of the Premier League and a major chunk of the season is yet to be played, so we can’t rush ourselves into making any early statements regarding him but the early promise shown by the former Torino man tilts the scales slightly in his favour. Michael Owen, a former Liverpool and Manchester United star, did the same as he chose Darmian over Clyne in his combined Liverpool-Manchester United XI for the The former Ballon D’Or winner stated that,

“I have been really impressed with him. It was quite a close call between him and Nathaniel Clyne, but I am going to go for Darmian. He was played particularly well for Manchester United, marauding down that right-hand side.”

There is a fine line separating both of them at the moment but it might be a different story come May.

Written by Vatsal Dani

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Vatsal Dani

Footy buff and a dreamer. Writer at heart and fan at brain. An Old Trafford faithful who favours Louis van Gaal.
Can also be found at Sportskeeda
Vatsal Dani

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