Carlo Ancelotti has hinted Angel Di Maria remains in his plans for the upcoming season, harming Manchester United's chances of landing the Argentinian star.
Di Maria was praised by Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone after the two capital-based sides met in the Spanish Supercopa first leg on Tuesday night, a match which ended 1-1.
Simeone called Di Maria "the best player they have," per Ben Hayward of Goal.com, a tactical quote which may have aimed to unsettle during a time where Los Blancos' star is heavily linked with a move to United or Paris Saint-Germain, reported by Sunni Upal of the Daily Mail.
Ancelotti has always indicated he wants Di Maria to remain at the club after the versatile player excelled in a central-midfield role last season. He noted the 26-year-old is in the team on his own merit after Tuesday's draw, suggesting Di Maria ranks with the club's most important stars, per Real's official website:
As I always say, Di Maria is a Real Madrid player and I use him as I like and as I think he should be used. He is one of Real Madrid’s biggest players. It could be that Simeone, in saying that he is our best player, has forgotten about a certain Ballon d’Or or (Gareth) Bale. But Di Maria is one of the great players I am lucky enough to manage.
United's reported interest in Di Maria could peak across the next 12 days. Louis van Gaal has less than two weeks to significantly improve the squad that lost to Swansea City during Saturday's Premier League opener, a game that saw wingers Ashley Young, Adnan Januzaj and Nani used in full-back positions.
The manager previously said he deploys 3-5-2 due to squad limitations, but hinted he is open to change if the right players are brought in.
Van Gaal showed his envy toward Madrid when saying, "we don't have wingers of the highest level, like (Cristiano) Ronaldo or Di Maria or somebody like that," per Sky Sports. "So, I have to play in another way – and you have seen that already. I only buy when I think we need to buy – in the position that is necessary."
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Now is certainly a necessary time. Momentum gathered through pre-season has completely disappeared after the Swansea loss, leaving United's prospects bleak unless heavy investments are made.
The club simply can't afford another seventh-place finish and needs to be taking part in the Champions League. This is looking extremely difficult when you consider United are already three points behind their main rivals. Adidas will cut the club's sponsorship earnings by £23 million next season if a place in Europe's elite competition isn't confirmed, per The Telegraph.
Di Maria would significantly galvanise hopes throughout the team and in the stands. His natural confidence, combined with energy and skill, could play a major role in Van Gaal's rebuilding process. The manager must take decisive action over the next 12 days, or his lack of signings will see him tarnished as unambitious in this challenging role.
This stigma gripped hold of David Moyes' reign and ultimately never let go. While Ancelotti is obviously wary of losing Di Maria, United can seriously test Real Madrid's willingness to keep the player by offering hefty terms. It would certainly be refreshing to see the English club sign a player without lots of fuss, especially as Di Maria is capable of positively influencing the entire team's setup.