herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Angel Di Maria is not a waste of money for United

Young positive record signing still a shrewd move for United

Angel di Maria of Manchester United
Angel di Maria of Manchester United

Ashley Young is sure Manchester United did not make an expensive mistake when they broke the British transfer record to sign Angel di Maria for £59.7million last summer.

United made a bold statement of intent when they smashed the transfer record by almost £10million to sign Di Maria from Real Madrid.

The early signs were good. Di Maria dazzled with his pace and trickery and his terrific chip over Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel is one of the best goals United have scored this season.

Di Maria's performances faded slightly thereafter, however, and he then struggled to recover from a hamstring problem towards the end of 2014.

Young has been a fan of the Argentinian midfielder for some time now, though, and he remains convinced United made a clever move by signing him last summer.

"Angel was a fantastic signing," Young told United Uncovered. "Real Madrid have other top players in their team, like Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, but he was the one who stood out for me in that team last season.

"When you add quality to a squad that already has quality it can only help us.

"We saw in the first couple of days in training just how good a player Angel is and what we can expect from him. He was definitely a great signing for us."

Di Maria has scored just two more goals - against Everton and Yeovil - since that 5-3 defeat at Leicester in September.

The former Benfica midfielder has not been helped by the fact he has been shunted around the pitch into several different positions.

Di Maria has played as a number 10 in recent weeks and he even had a spell as a central striker as manager Louis van Gaal felt his team lacked pace up front.

The 27-year-old has been most effective when operating on the left-hand side of a midfield diamond.

Michael Carrick, who sits at the base of that diamond has enjoyed watching Di Maria this year and has been so impressed he has likened the player to one of United's all-time great midfielders Ryan Giggs.

"There are players who have got tricks and can drop the shoulder to go past players, but he is so direct in his play," Carrick said of Di Maria.

"It is almost like Giggsy used to be in many ways. When he picks that ball up he can carry it and change direction pretty quickly, so it is very tough to defend against - especially if he is going through the middle of the park.

"There aren't many players who go through the middle. You get wide players who do it, but you don't see many players dribble through the middle of the pitch."

United will be without Carrick for tonight's FA Cup fifth-round tie at Preston as he has suffered a setback in his recovery from a calf injury that has kept him out for the last fortnight.

Daley Blind looks set to continue in the holding midfield role, provided that he recovers from the head injury he suffered in the 3-1 win over Burnley.

Van Gaal will make a late call on Robin van Persie, who is suffering with an unspecified injury.

The United boss also still rates Wayne Rooney as a striker even though he has dropped his captain into a deeper midfield role in recent weeks.

At the beginning of Van Gaal's reign, it seemed only a matter of time before Rooney would break Bobby Charlton's scoring record.

The striker was in good form, scoring 11 goals before December for club and country.

But the goals have dried up somewhat since, and the idea that he will definitely bridge the 25-goal gap between himself and Charlton has been put into question because of his positional change.

Rooney started the season as a striker, but Van Gaal moved him back to number 10, then into central midfield and he ended Wednesday night's 3-1 win over Burnley as a defensive midfielder.

Van Gaal has been heavily criticised for moving Rooney back deeper and deeper, but that does not mean his days are numbered as a centre-forward.

"He is maybe the best striker (I have)," the United manager said.

"It is not that anybody isn't a good player in my selection. I have to look at where each player can make the biggest contribution."

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