Darren Fletcher: 'We needed Di Maria back to get season moving again'
DARREN Fletcher is relieved that Angel Di Maria is back and firing on all cylinders for Manchester United.
The Argentine’s spontaneous spark has been missing from United’s play recently, but his team-mates are delighted he is back from injury and his sublime finish in the 2-0 FA Cup third-round win over Yeovil was a flicker of the finesse he brings to the team.
Di Maria came off the bench after an hour at Huish Park and gave United a creative boost in the attacking third of the field as the Reds sought to break down a determined opposing defence.
Within four minutes, Ander Herrera had struck a stunning goal to give United the lead, but Di Maria was proving influential at both ends of the field.
He cleared an effort off the line and then, in a late burst forward, he raced onto Wayne Rooney’s through-ball and coolly chipped his finish over the onrushing Jed Steer in the Yeovil goal.
Darren Fletcher was pleased to see the midfielder back in action, saying: “It was a touch of class to dink it over the goalkeeper, a fantastic goal, so credit to him.
“He showed exactly what he’s all about, he’s learning quickly and he makes great, intelligent runs as well. He always wants the ball, he gets kicked and he just keeps getting up – he’s that strong.
“We have missed him, but hopefully he’s back now and he can kick on for the second half of the season and be the really important player we know he’s going to be.”
Meanwhile, United boss Louis van Gaal hailed the “fantastic” attitude of right-back Rafael as he awaits news on the Brazilian’s injury.
The 24-year-old suffered a suspected fractured cheekbone in the first half of the win at Yeovil.
But the full-back, making his first start since October, battled on until half-time before joining United’s injury list - a fact not lost on his manager.
The Dutchman explained: “Rafael has an injury, a fracture of his bone. So it was fantastic that he had the guts that he could play through but I had to change him.
“He played through the pain because in the last few weeks he hasn’t played much but he now can play he is injured.
“He has a fantastic mentality Rafa, he is unbelievable.
“I don’t know how it happened. I will have to watch the video, I cannot say.”
Luke Shaw was also forced off at the break with an ankle problem but Van Gaal was not blaming his defenders’ injuries on their League One opponents, just the nature of the cup tie.
“It was from a duel and also Luke Shaw’s was,” he said. “It was a very physical game I think and of course the manager and the players make that of this game.
“For them it is one of the most exciting games of the last 10 years I believe.”
Having been frustrated by the resolute Glovers it took something special to break the deadlock and that moment of magic arrived from Herrera, who lashed home a stunning right-footed effort in the 64th minute.
“It is class and it is not the first goal he has scored from outside the box,” Van Gaal added.
“It is a fantastic goal. There was also a little bit of luck I think but you also need that. I was very happy with him that he scored the goal.”
Yeovil captain Joe Edwards, who saw a goal-bound header cleared off the line by Di Maria at 1-1, felt the Glovers - rock-bottom of the third tier - gave a good account of themselves.
“Before the game the gaffer said to have no regrets and I don’t think we have any, we gave it everything we had,” he said.
“We did have chances, maybe the best ones up to 60 minutes.
“Their quality shone through at the end.”