Di María arrived to Manchester United with a large price tag, and the public wondering where he could fit into Louis van Gaal’s vision. I even heard my Manchester United supporter flat mate complain about the signing of Di María instead of a defender. Judging by the QPR game the Argentine will offer attacking versatility that was previously missing from the team.
As far as attacking goes he can break down teams that defend in a compact shape. His dribbling is excellent, he was often up against both Isla and Matt Phillips on the left wing, or up against Sandro and Fer in the middle, but lost very few balls. His pace in the first yard combined with his trickery will be crucial in breaking down teams who leave little space 20-30 yards from their goal.
On the other hand when he got the ball around the halfway line, and nobody applied pressure on him he was more than happy to hit a ball over the opponents to van Persie. This kind of versatility will keep the opponents guessing whether to close him down, or give him space. He covers so much ground without the ball that it would be hard to mark him out of a game. The opponent would have to sacrifice a player to do so, which would leave the likes of Blind and Herrera more room, both of whom are excellent passers of the ball.
I have to admit that I considered di María to be a one dimensional player when he played on the wing under Mourinho. I thought that he wasn’t particularly smart for the game, but my opinion has changed. I noticed that he is constantly looking up when he is not in possession, and looks up one more time even after he gets the ball, which allows him to know exactly what is happening around him. I was particularly impressed when I saw him asking for the ball from Blind in the centre circle, and checking the field not just with his peripheral vision, but turning his head, and looking behind him. He is not going to slow down the ball ciculation if he keeps on searching the field like that.
Relationship with Rojo
His relationship with Rojo also looked good – the pair already know each other from international duty – performing some nice reverse moves on the left. Both are adept at hugging the touchline as well as playing around ten yards to the centre from the line. This allows them to make reverse moves not only vertically but horizontally. It gives them flexibility in their positioning, which makes United more fluid in possession, and gives them more ways to exploit the opponent’s weaknesses.
The team can use the quick feet and drbbling of di María as well as his puncuate long balls during attacking transitions. What was even more impressive for me is how quickly he transitioned from a defensive mindset to an attacking one. He was the first to react to changes in possession when United won the ball in midfield, runing into the spaces left open by the QPR midfielders. Rangers didn’t offer much going forward, so it remains to be seen how good he is defensively. He did let Isla run behind him in the 41th minute, leaving Rojo alone against two opponents, but at that point United were three goals up, which might have made him more relaxed about his defensive duties.
United have signed a very talented player, who seems to have the intelligence as well. He has the right attitude judging by the reports about how he fought for his place at Real Madrid. His form has been getting better and better, starting with excellent performances in last spring’s El Classico and the Champions League final, and lately in the friendly win against Germany. Di María is in his prime, and will be a key player for Manchester United in the years to come.
Article by Abel Lorincz.
You can follow him on twitter @Abel_Lorincz