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Romero shows his worth as Man United's second-choice goalkeeper

Manchester United's attacking players rightly received credit for their performance in Thursday's 4-0 Europa League win against Feyenoord. Henrikh Mkhitaryan was given a rare chance and took it. Wayne Rooney, who continues to play well, scored his 39th European goal to break Ruud van Nistelrooy's club record.

But while the final score was emphatic, United could have gone behind when the score was 0-0, had Sergio Romero not saved from Dirk Kuyt in the first half. Playing for only the third time this season, the Argentinean goalkeeper kept a second consecutive clean sheet and was happy when he spoke after the game.

"I'm delighted, we won well against an important team," he told ESPN FC. "It helps the confidence of the team and lots of our players performed well."

One, Mkhitaryan, was given a standing ovation when he was substituted after an impressive display.

"Mikhi had a great game and that was important for him," said Romero. "If he plays a lot then he'll recover the form which he had at Borussia Dortmund. He can be a big player for us, someone who can make a difference in games. He shows his talent in training every day."

Romero also praised Juan Mata, again one of United's better performers, as well as Rooney.

"[Mata] scored again; he's become consistent at that," said Romero. "He works very hard, I'm pleased for him. It's the same for our 10, our captain (Rooney). I'm pleased he broke the record tonight. He's still very important for this club, but he's not only a goalscorer: He covers a lot of ground, he helps with our defence."

Mkhitaryan, Mata and Rooney all want to play as many minutes as possible. Romero does too, but he realises that he's at United as the second-choice behind David De Gea. He arrived from Sampdoria in 2015 knowing that was the case.

"I'm happy in Manchester, my family are happy too," Romero said. "I adapted to living here quickly because I'd been in Holland for four years. I became used to Europe; I know what the weather is like. My role is simple: To work hard so that I'm in the perfect condition for the manager when required to play."

The 29-year-old is in an odd situation. With 85 caps and counting, he's made more appearances for his country than any other Argentina goalkeeper. For United, though, he predominantly sits alongside big names on the bench rather than playing with them.

This is a man who squeezes his six-foot-three-inch frame into a tiny Fiat 500 to drive to training. Despite his height, Romero's nickname is "Chiquito" -- the short one. That's because, in comparison to his brother, a professional basketball player called Diego, he is relatively small.

Sergio Romero has made 13 appearances for Manchester United since joining the club in 2015.

Born in the far north east of Argentina in a thin strip of fertile pampas territory between Brazil and Paraguay, Romero's family moved to Buenos Aires when he was a child. He worked his way through the youth ranks at Racing Club, one of Argentina's big five teams, and made his first-team debut at 19. He won the Under 20 World Cup in 2007, when Sergio Aguero was the tournament's top scorer and the Argentina team also included Angel Di Maria.

Romero had played only five times for Racing when he was signed for AZ Alkmaar by Louis van Gaal later the same year. He went on to establish himself as first-choice in a four-year spell in Holland and was part of the 2008-09 side that won the Eredivisie for only the second time in club history.

Van Gaal helped Romero settle by speaking to him in Spanish, which broke the manager's own rule that players had to speak Dutch, and also broke the news that Diego Maradona wanted to speak to the goalkeeper about calling him up to Argentina's senior squad. Romero had won Olympic gold in 2008 and was his national team's starter at the 2010 World Cup.

He moved to Sampdoria in 2011 and spent two seasons at the Italian club before moving along the Mediterranean coast to Monaco on loan. It was there that Romero's life as a second-choice began; he played just nine times in 2013-14 before returning the following season to Sampdoria for an 11-appearance campaign.

In the summer of 2015, one year after helping Argentina reach the World Cup final, Romero was available on a free transfer. Van Gaal trusted him and, needing a backup for De Gea, signed him for United.

Then came another twist. With De Gea expected to join Real Madrid and then, according to Van Gaal, distracted by all the attention when the move did not happen, Romero found himself thrust into action. He kept four clean sheets in six games but looked at fault for a goal in defeat at Swansea.

De Gea returned to the line-up for the next game, meaning Romero was back on the bench. That's how it has been ever since but he is not complaining.

"It's a dream to be at this club," said Romero on Thursday. "My friends in Argentina ask me all about it and I tell them about the size of it. I work hard with David De Gea. He's a good guy, a great goalkeeper. I've had opportunities in the Europa League and the EFL Cup. We're still in both cups and I hope we win both."

"I'm ready to play when called upon," he continued. "I'm very calm mentally and always ready. I can even play without a proper warm-up, as I did in the Europa League earlier this year (against FC Midtjylland)."

United fans know that if the brilliant De Gea was to get injured, Romero is a more than competent back-up. And with Sam Jonhstone as third-choice, one area in which the club has no problem is with goalkeepers.

Andy Mitten is a freelance writer and the founder and editor of United We Stand. Follow him on Twitter: @AndyMitten.


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