In the last 12 months, Manchester United have desperately lacked pace and creativity in attack. Performances have been lethargic, typified by slow and predictable build-up play. There has been no invention, no guile to United’s brand of football, and that’s why Angel Di Maria would be a perfect signing to rectify those problems.
The Argentine was one of Real Madrid’s standout players last season. He shone with his mazy runs and ability to create chances from just about anywhere.
That’s what United need right now. The fact that Di Maria has asked to leave Real Madrid this summer, per ESPN’s Nicholas Rigg, is all the invitation the club should need to sign the talented midfielder in the remaining days of the transfer window.
Ancelotti said Di Maria asked to leave this summer and has rejected a contract renewal. Finding a resolution #realmadrid— Nicholas Rigg (@nicholasrigg) August 21, 2014
Sounds like Ancelotti trying to speed-up Di Maria departure. First time they’ve confirmed he wants to go. United’s time? #realmadrid— Nicholas Rigg (@nicholasrigg) August 21, 2014
In a summer where United have failed to address some of the more pressing issues within the squad—despite signing Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera and Marcos Rojo—Di Maria’s availability means the club have the chance to sign a truly world-class player.
Louis van Gaal has already hinted at being interested in the Argentine, per Sky Sports, citing a lack of top-class wingers at the club as the reason for his introduction of a 5-3-2 formation. Di Maria’s signing could change that.
Interchangeability Between the 5-3-2 and the 4-3-3
Only Van Gaal knows whether the 5-3-2 is a long-term option for United, since he has built his success around the 4-3-3 formation.
Di Maria would be a perfect signing because he can play in both systems. His performances at the 2014 World Cup illustrated that perfectly.
In Argentina’s opening game versus Bosnia and Herzegovina, Di Maria played slightly deeper in midfield (left). Against Iran, where Argentina dominated possession, Di Maria got further forward and held the width well (centre). Finally, in Argentina’s last-16 tie with Switzerland, Di Maria was utilised as a right-winger, scoring the winning goal (right).
The point is that Di Maria can be used as one of the two midfielders behind Juan Mata in the 5-3-2 or as a left- or right-sided winger in a 4-3-3.
There’s even scope to deploy him in one of the front two positions in the 5-3-2, where his dribbling ability would stretch the game and give United a threat on the counter-attack. But which would be the best position for him under Van Gaal?
For United to see the very best of Di Maria, it would be wise to use him as one of the two wingers either side of an out-and-out forward in a 4-3-3 formation. The further he is up the pitch, the better. The two deeper-lying midfielders in the 5-3-2 need to be disciplined, and it would suit Di Maria if he had a little bit more attacking freedom.
Imagine Di Maria and Adnan Januzaj either side of a lead striker. The attacking flair those two possess would completely transform United’s style of play.
Anchored by Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and a third midfielder, United would have the perfect balance between attack and defence. Di Maria’s signing would give Van Gaal the chance to play his preferred formation, which can’t be overlooked.
The fact that either Wayne Rooney or Robin van Persie would miss out is almost a moot point. They cannot be afforded the luxury of starting every game if it comes at the expense of the team’s success. That’s true of any player, including those two.
But if Van Gaal decides to stick with the 5-3-2, how would Di Maria fit in?
For Di Maria to feature in one of the midfield positions, United would have to play a defensively-minded midfielder alongside him. He’s not the best tackler despite his ability to press the ball, and his is a slight, wiry physique.
Ander Herrera is not going to win any bodybuilding competitions in the near future, either, but where he has averaged three tackles per game in the last five years, Di Maria has averaged just 1.2 tackles per game, per WhoScored.com.
Besides, Di Maria is regarded as one of the finest players in world football for his attacking ability. So it’s perhaps more pertinent to look at playing him further up field. He could operate as a No. 10, but Mata is well suited to that role. That leaves the two striker positions, which are likely to be filled by Van Persie, Rooney and Danny Welbeck.
If Di Maria were to sign, he could play a similar role to that of Arjen Robben at the World Cup, as Bleacher Report’s Elko Born suggests.
Di Maria in the Arjen Robben role in Van Gaal's 5-3-2 could be ruthlessly efficient. Just brutal.— Elko Born (@Elko_B) August 21, 2014
Regardless of where Di Maria would play, it’s important to reinforce that he would add so much quality to any formation that United must try to sign him.
Having missed out on a number of targets during David Moyes’ tenure—some of whom have made high-profile transfers this summer—United cannot turn down the chance to sign one of the world’s best attacking players.
Di Maria Is the Type of Player United Should Be Signing
Only Cristiano Ronaldo was better or more important for Real Madrid than Di Maria last season.
In many ways it seems odd that the Champions League winners are prepared to let the supremely talented Argentinian leave in the first place. But that shouldn’t concern United. Di Maria is the type of player the club should be signing.
It would be completely unforgiveable not to make a bid for him. United’s fanbase won’t stand for that. If Paris Saint-Germain outbid United, then so be it.
That’s the nature of modern football.
But how many better players have made—or will make—transfers this summer? Luis Suarez is perhaps the only one who you could categorically place ahead of Di Maria. Alexis Sanchez, Cesc Fabregas and Toni Kroos would be on a par.
Almost every other top club in the Premier League has made a marquee signing this summer. Some have made more than one.
Di Maria is United’s chance to make a statement. He’s a wonderful talent, and he can play in numerous positions. He would be a perfect signing.