Manchester United defender Matteo Darmian has reiterated his desire to stay at Old Trafford despite being linked with a return to Serie A with Juventus, following an uncertain opening season in the Premier League. The 26-year-old joined the club from Torino in the summer but a campaign riddled with fitness and form problems has restricted his progress.
The Italy international started the club's first 11 games of the season and looked assured in the full-back position but as the campaign has progressed Darmian has picked up a succession of fitness problems, including rib and shoulder injuries. The versatile defender has begun the last two matches against Manchester City and Everton either side of the international break after winning his place back in the team.
Italian publication Calcio Gazzetta claimed prior to the January transfer window that Juventus officials were travelling to England to secure the £11m capture of Darmian, just six months on from his move to United. The player has once again quashed any suggestion he may leave at the end of this season, saying he "loves" the challenge of the Premier League.
"I love the Premier League, and I want to stay here for a long time," he said, according to the Manchester Evening News. "There is a lot of difference because this is a big club, and from Serie A there are a lot of differences. The Premier League is more physical and less tactical, this is the most important difference, but I think it is the best championship in the world, so I love it."
Successive league wins have seen United close the gap to fourth-place Manchester City to a single point in pursuit of Champions League qualification, and with both sides having seven games remaining it looks like a two-way tussle for the final place. Darmian says the top four should be the minimum requirement for the club and has urged his teammates to cope with the pressure.
"I think Manchester United is the biggest club in the world so there is a lot of pressure," he added, according to ESPN. "They expect that we win all the games. Now we want to be in the top four at the end of the season. We have a big chance to win the FA Cup, so we want to improve and work, and if possible win a trophy.
"Yes, of course, [top four is minimum requirement]. We want to be in the top four at the end of the season and the club works for this. If we work hard we have a big chance. We won the last two games so we want to continue on this way."