Monday 26 September 2016

Five reasons why Angel Di Maria's time at Manchester United went so horribly wrong

Published 26/07/2015 | 16:45

Manchester United's Angel Di Maria
Manchester United's Angel Di Maria

As Di Maria closes in on a move to PSG, we examine five reasons it did not work out at Old Trafford - from injuries to break-ins.

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1)  The break in at his house

Nothing seemed to affect Angel Di Maria, who looks set to move to Paris St-Germain, more than a break in at his home at the end of January. It is fair to say that after the terrifying incident he never recaptured the form he had shown in his early days at Manchester United following his £59.7m move from Real Madrid.

Burglars are believed to have used scaffolding poles to smash their way into his Cheshire home, while he was home along with his wife Jorgelina and baby daughter Mia.

The family moved into a hotel and United provided them with round-the-clock security.

The break-in was reportedly most distressing for Di Maria's wife, who became increasingly keen to leave Manchester.

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2) String of injuries

An injury during the last game of the season against Hull City was symbolic of Di Maria's struggles with fitness since his move to Old Trafford.

That followed a spell on crutches prior to the game against Crystal Palace, an injury that took him out of action for ten days at the business end of the season.

In fact, Di Maria was not fit to play for 75 days between July 5 2014, when he picked up a muscle injury at the World Cup, and the corresponding date this calendar year.

He was injured again, exactly a year later, as Argentina sought to win the Copa America.

An inability to get a consistent run of games for Man Utd will not have helped Di Maria's attempts to settle at all.

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3) A bizarre red card against Arsenal

If you are Louis van Gaal, you demand the best behaviour from big money players, especially those who have flattered to deceive since arriving at a club.

Di Maria will have almost certainly lost the respect of his manager after his red card against Arsenal.

At that point, the Argentine winger's form was already clearly on a downturn. His involvement on a game-by-game basis was coming into question, and he needed to perform.

An FA Cup quarter final is a good stage to prove yourself on, but Di Maria did the opposite.

He was first booked for diving, a questionable offence in any situation. Shortly after, he grabbed referee Michael Oliver's shirt, who booked him again, and Di Maria received his marching orders.

This is not the sort of behaviour a manager can trust from a player who isn't necessarily aiding a side with his displays.

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4) No position

At the same time, Louis van Gaal's own decision making can't have helped Di Maria.

Van Gaal's intentions at the start of the season were to implement the 3-5-2 system that had taken him to a World Cup semi-final with Holland.

Given Di Maria's displays for Real Madrid as they won the Champions League, playmaking from the centre of the park, he seemed perfect to play in the hole behind the strikers, aiding them creatively.

Alternatively, had Van Gaal reverted to his generally preferred 4-3-3, Di Maria would have been the ideal candidate to play on the left hand side.

However, the Man Utd manager spent a large segment of last season playing a diamond in midfield. This took away the possibility of Di Maria playing as a winger, his natural position.

From there, with Di Maria injured, Marouane Fellaini made the attacking midfield berth his own, using his physical presence to give the Old Trafford a new vigour and helping them qualify for the Champions League.

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5) The reemergence and purchase of alternatives

Di Maria's arrival seemed to deal with a problem that had developed under David Moyes at Man Utd - the inability of the club's wide players to make a real impact on a game.

Nani signed a long-term deal while Moyes was in charge, but the season brought little reward for the Portuguese winger. He departed on loan for Sporting Lisbon shortly after Van Gaal took over.

Ashley Young, another player who struggled under Moyes, stayed in the squad. Van Gaal initially used him as a left wing-back, something that didn't seem to suit his play at all, and it looked unlikely that he would regain his form.

He seemed a likely candidate to follow Nani out of the door, but over the year, Young suddenly started putting in the same excellent displays that convinced Sir Alex Ferguson to pay nearly £20 million for him.

Young's equaliser and two assists in the 4-2 win against Manchester City showed his sudden reemergence. While he has been linked with a move back to Aston Villa this summer, it seems unlikely to occur.

That already presented one problem for Di Maria to tackle, but the purchase of Memphis Depay - who pushed PSV Eindhoven to an Eredivisie title with his displays on the left - has almost certainly made Di Maria's task impossible.

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