Unquestionably, the capture of Angel Di Maria to smash the British transfer record has put a smile on the majority of Manchester United fans’ faces, but it’s clear there remains a lot of work for them to do before his signature can be fully enjoyed. Many supporters would love to see Louis van Gaal bring another experienced defender alongside Daley Blind to shore up the back-line, because even at this early stage of the campaign, it’s clear that’s what they need most of all. But as far as flagship signings go, the former Rosario Central man is quite a jaw-dropping one. Arguably one of los Merengues’ finest players from last season, his arrival has the potential to shake the cobwebs off what’s been a dire start from one of England’s most prestigious clubs. Whereas under Carlo Ancelotti, Di Maria was rarely raised on a pedestal by those around him – until right before his transfer when it was too late – a new career at Old Trafford could be the perfect opportunity for him to become an attacking saviour, someone who could finally fill the boots of Cristiano Ronaldo. No doubt, he’ll give them a massive boost. Looking at some of his La Liga stats from 2013/14, the 26-year-old was the player with the most assists in the league, notching up an impressive 17, so he had a huge hand in providing an offensive threat as los Blancos ended the season with 104 goals – the most of any Spanish team that season. And with Robin van Persie and a new leader in Wayne Rooney potentially leading the line as a pair for the Red Devils, Di Maria’s service to them will definitely open up more channels and allow the strikers time and space to infiltrate defences the way they should.
When Gareth Bale arrived from White Hart Lane last summer, it looked as though Di Maria would find himself ousted from the Bernabeu to make way for the Welshman, but he stood up to the challenge of being resurrected as a replacement for Mesut Ozil, much like the position he enjoyed performing during his time at Benfica and he applied himself expertly. Of course, most will know just how influential he can act as a winger from his time on international duty with Argentina, as well as the seasons before his re-design as a central midfielder. Zipping up and down the wing with great speed, he’s caused more than a few headaches for full-backs throughout his career so far. So it’s fair to say that Di Maria is an adaptable signing that offers much more than pacy ball control. He has superb vision, fantastic spatial awareness and he clearly possesses the natural speed and agile movement to flourish in the Premier League – something many continue to doubt. And with Van Gaal continuing his clear-out with Shinji Kagawa being shipped back to Borussia Dortmund following a disappointing spell at Old Trafford, it’s clear that United need as many versatile squad members as they can get. After all, that’s precisely the type of player the manager prefers, as underlined by being linked with Blind and Arturo Vidal all summer, two of world football’s most multi-talented footballers. Perhaps most importantly of all, however, is the personal trait of steely determination that Di Maria possesses. Many times he was rumoured to be on his way out of Madrid, but he did his best to adapt, and survive – but in the end he did so much more than that; he outshone most of their billboard names to give the team his all.
Looking at his debut against Burnley on Saturday, it’s clear Di Maria’s offensive capabilities will not be diminished in the least bit by his new side’s glaring weaknesses at the back. Evidently, trying to outweigh their shortcomings at the back with a top-heavy attack, Van Gaal seems to have marked out this season’s game-plan already. But United’s new No7 should still thrive with the expectancy. At Turf Moor, he was their best player by far, exuding class whenever the opportunity presented itself with a number of deft touches and accurate passes to set up a small selection of goal-scoring opportunities. And although they were forced to share the spoils, the travelling fans will have been happy with what they saw throughout his 70-minute cameo. No doubt, their current back three of Tyler Blackett, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans isn’t the least bit inspiring as a collective unit, nor is it the best platform to spring attacks from, but that won’t stop the accomplished midfielder from creating problems when he does get the ball played into feet. After all, Di Maria is not renowned for his back-tracking – he has been bought to set strikers up and score a few himself. And judging from the excerpts we saw this weekend, that’s exactly what he intends to do.
MORE: Man United latest news
MORE: Arsenal latest news
MORE: Chelsea latest news
MORE: Liverpool latest news