As the last week of the summer transfer window comes around, all eyes will be on Old Trafford. Manchester United is seemingly desperate to add to their current crop of underperforming stars.
The Red Devils have been linked with a number of Europe’s elite players since the window opened, but one name has remained on the club’s radar throughout—Angel Di Maria.
Paris Saint-Germain had been in pole position to sign the Real Madrid forward, but as Sky Sports’ Guillem Balague revealed, Di Maria’s sights are firmly set on United as the fantasy deal moves closer to reality:
Things finally moving about di María: meetings (agents, clubs) will take place early nxt wk. He has chosen United— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) August 23, 2014
With Los Blancos spending heavily in the summer to bring in Colombian sensation James Rodriguez, there was always bound to be a Bernabeu exodus, and it appears that Di Maria is leading it.
The Argentinian will reportedly set United back over €60 million and will wear the famous No. 7 shirt previously worn by the man who convinced him to make the switch to United, per Balague:
Real and United are very close in the valuation of the player. He will cost MORE THAN 60m euros, could be 70. He will wear number 7— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) August 23, 2014
Cristiano told di María United is the club to go. Mendes is returning to Europe from Singapur to finalise deal. All very very close.— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) August 23, 2014
Cristiano Ronaldo’s brilliance in the famous red shirt earned him a big-money transfer to the Bernabeu, and he’s now repaying his debt to Manchester United by sending Di Maria in the opposite direction—no wonder the Old Trafford terraces still sing his name.
It’s all looking like a done deal, then, but while Di Maria is undoubtedly a player of the most explosive calibre, how exactly will he operate in manager Louis van Gaal’s system?
The Dutchman traditionally sets his sides out in a 3-5-2 formation, meaning that the only recognised left-side position for Di Maria to operate in would be left wing-back.
The Argentinian is a hard worker, sure, but a wing-back he most certainly isn’t, and Van Gaal will need to alter his tactics if he makes the switch.
As David Moyes will tell you, playing a new arrival out of position doesn’t exactly keep the fans singing your name, and if the forward heads to Old Trafford, then that’s exactly what he should be—a forward.
Besides, if simple knowledge wasn’t enough to make Van Gaal change his ways, then the statistics are there to really hammer home just how effective Di Maria is in an advanced role—per Squawka Football:
In fact, Angel Di Maria registered more assists in 2014 alone (14) than any player from Europe's top 5 leagues managed in the entire season.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 23, 2014
However, it seems that the Real Madrid man himself is relishing the chance to link up with a manager of Van Gaal’s credentials no matter where he plays, as Balague revealed that excitement is Di Maria’s only emotion, per Sky Sports:
He is also very excited about the prospect of working with manager Louis van Gaal and everyone is expecting that the deal will be closed soon.
He is very excited by the prospect and he is just the sort of player that Van Gaal is looking for.
That’s something that former player Gary Neville agrees with, too, as he said that Di Maria is exactly the kind of player that United need to bring them out of their current rut:
I know it's early and speculation but Di Maria fits the bill for United 100% ..— Gary Neville (@GNev2) August 23, 2014
Forward players aren’t really the problem at Old Trafford, though, as it’s the central areas that really need some work.
If the best-case scenario happens and Di Maria finds himself in red, then he’ll be in for a rude awakening when he looks to his right on a matchday and sees Tom Cleverley and Marouane Fellaini lining up alongside him.
That’s not to say that landing the 26-year-old is a bad thing—far from it—but other areas on the pitch are in a much more serious need of improvement, and United fans need to hope that Van Gaal has more tricks up his sleeve.
Either way, this is much more like it from Manchester United, finally bringing in the kind of player that we’ve become accustomed to seeing in the red shirt.
In no way is Di Maria the complete solution to the club’s squad problems, but let’s face it—he isn’t a bad way to start addressing them.