Manchester United welcomed Angel Di Maria to the lineup for the first time on Saturday following his arrival from Real Madrid. The attacking group, which also featured Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, didn't lack star power but remained sluggish in a 0-0 draw with Burnley.
New United boss Louis van Gaal has worked swiftly since taking over the Premier League side to revamp the squad while also trying to find a starting group that clicks. The early results are showing the entire effort is going to take some time and patience.
Di Maria was a constant presence almost immediately. He was very energetic in the midfield, attempting to give the Red Devils the spark they've been missing so far this season. Match Zone from the Daily Mail illustrated his impact:
Anup Kaphle of the Washington Post was impressed with what he seen from the new signing:
Angel Di Maria’s presence can already be felt. So many moments of brilliance. Now we need a beautiful goal. #ManUtd— Anup Kaphle (@AnupKaphle) August 30, 2014
In particular, the midfielder was a blur when he received the ball in open space. His ability to turn upfield with pace and leave defenders lunging for the ball showcased his world-class talent. Yet, United still weren't able to get much going in the first half.
As for Rooney, the club noted he was making his 400th start on Saturday:
Unfortunately for the United and England international captain, the moment that generated the most buzz on social media was passed along by Footy Vines.
Van Persie was able to generate perhaps the best chance of the opening half after a delivery by Di Maria. The striker, who's still searching for top form, couldn't beat the Burnley keeper, however. ESPN FC noted the key save:
The halftime scoreline was a frustrating 0-0 for United.
Little changed after the break. The Red Devils were able to win the possession battle but were able to create very little in the final third against a conservative Burnley defense.
The club's prized signing then suffered a knock about 20 minutes into the second half. ESPN FC noted he was able to return to action:
The @ManUtd faithful hold their breath as Angel Di Maria goes down clutching his ankle. Receives treatment and he's back in play.— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) August 30, 2014
He was subbed off for Anderson a short time later, however, as pointed out by BBC Radio Manchester:
Angel Di Maria's decent performance on debut comes to an end, he's replaced by Anderson... #BBCRMSport— BBC Radio Manchester (@bbcradiomanc) August 30, 2014
While it was a promising debut for the playmaker, there's still plenty of work to do in terms of building chemistry with his teammates in the weeks ahead.
Aon Football sent along word that Van Persie followed Di Maria to the sideline just minutes later:
Substitution - @Persie_Official off for Welbeck in the 73rd.— Aon Football (@Aon_Football) August 30, 2014
The subs did nothing to change the complexion of the match. United were still unable to create the type of chances they need to get the attack on track.
Squawka Football highlighted Rooney's struggles:
It took Wayne Rooney 78 minutes to muster his first shot against Burnley. Captain fantastic. pic.twitter.com/9xJGZ83SD4— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 30, 2014
Without the finishing touch they needed, United were forced to accept a scoreless draw. The Premier League reported the result:
All told, Di Maria definitely flashed the potential to jump-start the United attack, but it just isn't going to happen overnight. It's going to take a steady build in the weeks and months ahead. Perhaps by midseason they can hit their peak and take off from there.
For that to happen, however, Rooney and Van Persie must start working better together. They have two playmaking midfielders in Di Maria and Juan Mata to create chances. If they can create a stronger link, the goals should start coming in bunches.
Disappointing results for United like the one on Saturday can be expected until everything gets sorted out in the attacking third.