Football

Where did it all go wrong for Angel Di Maria?

Wow, what a difference two weeks make. My last post on here gave the reasons why I thought Di Maria would be staying at United- now it’s just a matter of time before he’s confirmed as a PSG player. Missing the plane was the decisive moment for me, that’s when I realised there was truth in all these stories about a move. But it all looked great for Di Maria ten months ago, didn’t it? What happened?

Di Maria’s next destination. Photo ‘PSG World via Flickr’.


He didn’t fit the “philosophy”

Van Gaal’s preferred style of football is clear. He wants his team to dominate possession, drag opposition players out of position through constant movement of the ball and then strike. I’m sure it’s more complex than that but that appears the general outline. This simply isn’t Di Maria’s style of play- he wants to take risks, break the lines, beat people on his own. You saw that with the goal against Leicester at the start of last season. I don’t think van Gaal likes this and that’s why he stopped picking Di Maria in the centre. Ander Herrera was very similar, he wanted to get forward and create chances but he left too much space behind and it was too much of a risk for the manager’s liking. Bear in mind, Herrera was hardly selected between October and mid-February

There’s no doubt Di Maria played his best football for United on the left of the 4-4-2 midfield diamond but he only played there four times before he was moved to the wing, where it was ‘less risky’. By the second half of the season, the Argentine was basically restricted to crossing and passing, which I imagine wouldn’t have felt totally right to him.

Lack of form

Linked to the last point. Because he didn’t really fit with the team’s way of playing, his form suffered. I think this graphic from WhoScored tells the whole story. The stats are divided before and after United’s 2-1 win over Arsenal. All the key attacking figures: goals, assists, shots per game, key passes per game and dribbles per game are all significantly down.

Lack of form meant players like Young and Mata stayed in the team ahead of him. It was pretty telling that United’s best games of the season against Spurs, Liverpool and City came without Di Maria.

Injury

There seemed to be an injury curse throughout the United squad last season and Di Maria was no exception. Hamstring and pelvic injuries to name a couple. It meant that after the first one, he struggled to get a consistent run of games.

New league/language

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Mateja Kezman scored 105 goals in 122 games for PSV but only 4 in 25 for Chelsea. Photo ‘PSGMag.net’ via Flickr.

The Premier League is probably the hardest league to adapt to for a foreigner. It’s fast, intense, physical, unforgiving, relentless and the list goes on. Many players come into the league, start terribly and improve (I’m talking for example about Martin Demichelis, Per Mertesacker and Luka Modric). Others take to it like a duck to water (Sergio Aguero, Alexis Sanchez etc.).  Di Maria seemed to be the latter after the first few games but now he’s fallen into the dreaded ‘flop’ category with the likes of Mateja Kezman, Jose Antonio Reyes and Fernando Morientes.

The fact that he didn’t speak English wouldn’t have helped either. I know there are loads of Spanish speakers at United but what about the team meetings van Gaal often talks about? If they spent half an hour talking about tactics, it would’ve all gone over Di Maria’s head. Not just him, others as well but you get my point.

(One thing I always find funny is when the referees are trying to speak with foreign players and you can tell the player has no idea what the ref is talking about but he just nods like he does.)

The break-in

Probably the biggest reason. Before this incident he might have been thinking ‘it’s not going well but I’ll stick at it’. From what I’ve read, the break-in had a massive mental affect on his wife. With the rubbish weather and probably average food, I imagine this (the break-in) would’ve been the deal-breaker in terms of wanting to stay in Manchester.

Di Maria’s critics will say ‘someone could break in to his house in Paris’. Although this is true, it’s quite harsh because no-one wants or expects it to happen. Although he’ll never admit it publicly, the general consensus is this was the main reason for the Argentine’s departure. I believe it is.

Di Maria’s time with van Gaal was short-lived. Photo ‘Congres in Beeld’ via Flickr.

So, what now? 

What happens now is that he gets the move he actually wanted last season. PSG would’ve got him if it hadn’t been for FFP restrictions. He joins the fourth best league in Europe in my opinion but he’s guaranteed to win trophies because PSG normally win everything there. I imagine he’ll do well because the league is a lot easier than he’s experienced over the past several years in Spain and England.

His wife gets the glamour move to Paris where the weather will be better. More shops, better food. Surely an ideal destination from her point of view.

Am I sad that he’s leaving? Sad is the wrong word. I’m left thinking ‘what if’ to a certain extent. He’s a huge name with obvious quality but United played better without him last season- as simple as that. A lot of fans have been saying ‘why are they letting him go?’ and ‘they should’ve done all they could to keep him’. I’m sure they did but he wanted to leave. There’s no point in carrying passengers, if he doesn’t want to stay and perform then let him go – at least he’s not going to a rival.

Final thoughts

I don’t like how his time has ended. It’s quite similar to Raheem Sterling at Liverpool (click here for my thoughts on that) and it hasn’t gone done well with the fans. ‘Bottler’ has been a common word associated with Di Maria over the last week or so. Roy Keane called him “weak” of course too. Di Maria also lied about staying- I actually found four references to him saying he wants to be at United long term. It shows that player and manager quotes about transfers mean nothing.

It’s certainly a move that I didn’t see happening this summer but it is going to. After how he acted with the plane (apparently United don’t even know where he is now!) I think it’s best for all parties if he moves on.

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