Angel Di Maria's Performance vs. Germany Proves His Worth for Manchester United

Paul Ansorge@@utdrantcastFeatured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2014

Argentina's players celebrate their side's fourth goal by Angel Di Maria, 2nd right, during the friendly soccer match between Germany and Argentina in Duesseldorf, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Frank Augstein/Associated Press

Manchester United's Angel Di Maria put on a masterclass during Wednesday night's international friendly between Germany and Argentina.

From a personal perspective, typing out the phrase "Manchester United's Angel Di Maria" is profoundly exciting. A player who has been much admired from a distance—and who had seemed unattainable—has arrived at Old Trafford.

In his debut at Burnley, there were clear indicators of what Di Maria will bring to the side. However, United's injury-hit line-up was so dysfunctional that he was only briefly allowed to shine.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 30:  Angel Di Maria of Manchester United shows his emotions during the Barclays Premier League match between Burnley and Manchester United at Turf Moor on August 30, 2014 in Burnley, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Imag
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

When he did, it offered glimpses of a bright future ahead for fans of the Red Devils. Beautiful crosses aimed at the far post, through-balls and mazy dribbles. All of those appeared during a 10-minute spell in the first half in which Di Maria was dominant.

Wednesday night's international game saw the Argentine take his performance to another level.

There are, of course, the usual caveats which need to be applied to a performance in a friendly. After all, Ashley Young was consistently excellent in pre-season.

However, that is the only time Di Maria and Young should be mentioned in the same breath, given the disparity between their levels of ability and output. Only once in his time at Real Madrid has Di Maria failed to provide double figures worth of assists to his team-mates in a league season. Young has never managed more than three in a league season for United.

Germany also played a relatively experimental line-up, with Mario Gotze and Thomas Muller on the bench, and Manuel Neuer replaced at half-time.

Martin Meissner/Associated Press

But with the important caveat about it being "only a friendly" out of the way, just what was it that was so exhilarating about watching Di Maria against Germany?

First of all there was the output. Argentina won the game 4-2. Di Maria assisted three of those goals and scored the other.

Second of all was the electrifying manner of the output—the three-assists game from two crosses from the right and a free-kick from the left. One of the goals from open play was a cross lifted in with devastating artistry with the outside of his left foot.

It curled perfectly into the path of Sergio Aguero, whose finish was excellent. But it was the assist, offered on a plate to him, lifted over Germany's defenders into his path, that made the goal so beautiful.

The other assist from open play saw Di Maria burst down the right wing before picking out a cross to the attacker in the box, who was not marked.

A fairly obvious choice on paper, but, seen in real time, one which caught the eye—and wrong-footed the goalkeeper—by having an improvisational quality. With the ball in play the deeper, cut-back cross which he chose seemed the less likely option.

The assist from the free-kick was a well-delivered cross into the box. That may be easy to brush over—"elite level professional footballer offers good set-piece delivery" is not much of a story, after all—but at United those high-quality set pieces are often missing. Adding another player who can deliver them well is invaluable.

The goal was the icing on the cake, a deft flick over the onrushing keeper which followed a direct and explosive run into the box.

Frank Augstein/Associated Press

There was more to his performance than just the output, plenty of attempts that did not quite come off but which nonetheless showed a player full of confidence.

United's new signings will need time to jell, and the full benefit of the upgrade to the squad may not be felt immediately.

However, on the evidence of his performance against Germany, Di Maria is back at full match fitness and is ready to go. United may very soon be a much more dangerous opponent than they have been of late.

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