Marcos Rojo was repeatedly placed in the shop window by Manchester United and reserved his biggest impact for the shops.
Rojo’s agent, Kristian Bereit, was previously a personal shopper at Selfridges before he encountered Rojo and opted for a career change, but failed to impart his expertise to Rojo when he arrived at Tiffany’s one day.
Rojo was enticed by a pair of glistening diamond earrings and enquired about their cost. £4,000. Rojo was so astounded by the reasonable price he decided to purchase three pairs – one for his wife and a ‘spare’ pair – and part with £12,000.
When Rojo returned to his Cheshire home, he glanced at the receipt and his face dropped. There was an extra digit. The cost of a pair was £40,000. Rojo had just dropped £120,000 in Tiffany’s.
Rojo never conducted an interview in English during his time in Manchester, although a colleague who interviewed him in his first season noticed he understood some English phrases. Something had got lost in translation between ‘four thousand’ and ‘forty thousand’.
Rojo’s arithmetic was as flawed as a rough diamond but he was amused enough to regale his Spanish-speaking teammates about the extravagant shopping trip. Word soon spread to the coaching staff and the then-United manager Jose Mourinho fell about laughing at the revelation.
Of his six-and-a-half years in Manchester, Rojo’s valuation seldom matched Tiffany’s jewellery. Barring an outstanding five-month period in 2016-17 that was abruptly halted when he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament, Rojo was a defensive dud, so unwanted he had the number five revoked in a passive aggressive demand from Mourinho that Ed Woodward sign a centre-back in 2018. He never did.
Rojo was in the shop window in all but one summer – the one he was injured. Louis van Gaal took a dim view of Rojo’s tardiness at the start of 2015-16 and was prepared to immediately jettison him. Mourinho wanted to recruit Jose Fonte the next summer but could not shift Rojo. Everton enquired two summers running and last year’s homecoming in Argentina with boyhood club Estudiantes was a disaster. Rojo was caught flouting lockdown rules more times than he played – once.
The very mention of Rojo’s name once caused Ryan Giggs, Van Gaal’s assistant for two years, to bury his head in his hands. It was ominous that Van Gaal bought Rojo on the strength of his 2014 World Cup performances, a trap United had not fallen into since they took punts on Jordi Cruyff and Karel Poborsky after Euro 96.
It is a quirk Rojo started in two of United’s three victorious post-Ferguson finals and would have been a shoe-in for the Europa League victory over Ajax but for the knee injury. Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic sustained cruciate injuries on the same night against Anderlecht and it was not contrary to suggest Rojo was the greater loss at the time.
Mourinho appreciated both so staunchly United players donned warm-up tops with ‘Rojo’ and ‘Ibrahimovic’ printed on them three days later at Burnley. A chiselled Rojo donned his Paul Smith three-piece – and crutches – in Stockholm and deservedly collected his winner’s medal.
Rojo’s role in United’s greatest triumph of the last seven-and-a-half years would be a more flattering legacy but it is his contract renewal in March 2018. Rojo’s previous deal had an expiry date of June 2019 yet United offered him a new contract altogether after he had completed 90 minutes just seven times following the cruciate setback. The after-effects were still being felt when Rojo was substituted at half-time against Manchester City and Burnley in December 2017.
The hastiness in extending Rojo’s stay – compounded by the embarrassment of the squad number change four months later – is on United and their desire for assets on a balance sheet. They are blameless for Rojo’s failure to show the restraint of Holly Golightly.
She only gazed through the window.