United have announced that they have signed 26-year-old Angel Di Maria. The Argentine international has joined from Real Madrid for a fee reported to be in the region of £59.7 million.
Di Maria is a technically gifted player, known for his flexibility. Although he is principally known as a left winger, he has played in a variety of positions. Predominantly left footed, he has played on both wings as well as in midfield. Even when he is deployed as a winger he tends to play in a fairly narrow position. It was playing on the left side of a 3 man midfield that Di Maria won the man-of-the-match award in last Champions league final as Real Madrid took the trophy for a tenth time. In Spain there has been consternation at the sale of Di Maria. He has earned a reputation as a hard working, tactically aware and selfless player, who works hard for the team, never hides and makes critical, telling passes. He is seen as a match winner and by many as the key man in the Real Madrid team. From United’s perspective perhaps his most important attribute is his pace: Di Maria is fast.
So why are Real Madrid selling the player? It would seem that this is an economic decision on the part of the Real president as he wishes to recoup the money that was spent on James Rodriguez. But in short, who cares! More fool him.
Di Maria’s career has progressed with a steady, rather than spectacular, trajectory since he made his first team debut for hometown club Rosario Central in 2005. He moved to Benfica two years later, helping them to win the Portuguese league in 2010. Then he moved to Real Madrid and, in his four seasons there, won a Spanish league in 2012, the Copa del Rey on two occasions and the Spanish Super Cup before success in last season’s Champions League.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of his career came this summer at the World Cup where a thigh muscle tear in the quarter-finals saw him miss both semi-final and final of the tournament, as Argentina finished as runners-up to Germany. Di Maria is currently a mainstay of the Argentina side and to date he has won 52 caps, scoring 10 goals. As a youngster he also helped Argentina to Olympic glory in 2008, scoring the goal that clinched gold in the final.
United have faced Di Maria before of course; he demonstrated his qualities when Jose Mourinho’s side eliminated United from the Champions League in the 2012-13 season. The player provided the assist for Ronaldo goal in the first leg.
Although some have made adverse comments about the size of the transfer fee, Di Maria ticks all the appropriate boxes and is very much a van Gaal type of player. He is flexible and could operate in any number of formations. Critically, Di Maria brings much needed pace to the side.
Angel Di Maria, welcome to Old Trafford.