Three key players who need to improve for Man United
Steven Prince gives three Manchester United players the hairdryer treatment ahead of Burnley clash
Angel di Maria
What does £59.7m buy a modern-day football club? Three goals and six assists from 16 Premier League appearances. World Cup finalist Angel di Maria arrived at Old Trafford to much fanfare and seemingly proving that Manchester United still had the ability to lure high calibre players to the club despite the notable absence of European competition. Sure, Di Maria has never been prolific at any of the four professional clubs he has turned out for – his best league campaign in terms of goal-scoring was 2012-13 when the man from Rosario scored seven for Real Madrid. But what must be more disconcerting for the Theatre of Dreams theatregoers is how the Argentine’s form has dipped and cooled off, like a piece of asado removed from the parilla grill. Di Maria started so promisingly for the club too – scoring on his full home debut against QPR as well as providing an assist before scoring a tremendous Karel Porborsky-esque scoop a week later at Leicester. Since then, the Ferrocentral has derailed and Di Maria has limped unrecognisably through matches although perhaps van Gaal is yet to find his best position within the team.
An unenviable task of replacing Patrice Evra befell the 19-year-old upon his big money move to Manchester last summer. Having been one of the biggest, and brightest, fish on the south coast at Southampton, Shaw has struggled with fitness and an alternating formation in the north-west. Largely used as the left-sided component of a back-four at St Marys, Shaw has played either at left back or left wing-back, sometimes in the same game, which has done little to help the fledgling full back settle at his new nest. Maybe his red card at Upton Park was harsh but still, to make such a rash challenge so late in the game shows signs of immaturity and impetuousness. The left back will need to shape up or he may find his stay in Manchester is brought to a premature end before it has truly begun. Shaw, for one, needs stability and game time if he is to improve.
Robin van Persie
This section could so easily have been about Radamel Falcao, but one cannot knock a man so soon after his birthday, so unfortunately the mantle falls to Robin van Persie. For a club brimming with attacking talent, it is surprising that no player from Old Trafford has reached double figures in terms of goals. The Dutchman has been lethal since his move from north London to northern England, but struggled under compatriot, and former national team coach, Louis van Gaal. The 31-year-old seems to be free from the injury-hit seasons of his youth but now has a new foe – profligacy. Since the turn of the new year, the two-time Premier League golden boot winner has scored just one goal. In fact, the Dutchman has only managed to score in successive games twice all season. The pomp and swagger of previous seasons has been misplaced as at times this season, it seems the forward would struggle to hit a windmill with a guitar. If the club are to finish in the top-four, van Persie and his goal-grabbing cronies need to sharpen up.