Sport360° view: Di Maria gives United a lift but more is required

James Piercy 27/08/2014
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More stars needed: Manchester United must keep on investing if they want to compete with the best.

In Angel Di Maria, Manchester United have signed a player who, based on last season, is among the top 20 in world football.

Arguably Madrid’s most consistent player in the latter half of last season, he was man of the match in the Champions League final and became a hugely influential player under Carlo Ancelotti.

His removal from the Madrid team will have more of a short-term effect on their first XI than the signings of James Rodriguez or Toni Kroos. 

At 26, he’s in a peak age bracket and there’s more than enough evidence to suggest he will go on to be a fantastic player for United.

United have overpaid a little but it’s an inflated transfer market and they lost all bargaining power once they lost 2-1 to Swansea on the opening day of the season. Every club and every agent knew Louis van Gaal needed good players, and he needed them quickly. 

Questions have arisen, namely: Why did it take 34 days between James moving to Madrid and United signing Di Maria? And, is his acquisition addressing the main deficiencies in the squad? 

We’ll never know the answer to the first, although it is remarkable that in a summer when it was widely acknowledged United needed four or five first-team players they’re breaking the British transfer record in the last week of the window.

But with that in mind, we should maybe give Ed Woodward the benefit of the doubt regarding the second question, as who knows who else will be joining before Monday’s deadline with at least one defensive player of paramount importance.

What is clear is that you do not spend £59.7m on a footballer for him to be a squad player. So, how exactly are United going to fit Di Maria into the starting XI? 

Given their muted start to the season, and assuming there are no work permit issues, United’s new No7 should get his first experience of the English top flight against Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday. 

For all Van Gaal’s steadfast commitment to a system, surely he’s realised that United at present don’t have the individuals to play a 3-5-2. The Dutchman admitted in an interview with Britain’s Daily Mail on August 10, that he can’t play  an attacking formation with any genuine width without a world-class winger. He now has that man,  so when Di Maria is deemed up to speed expect a change to a 4-3-3.

It was telling last night that Van Gaal referred to him as a “world class midfielder”, implying Di Maria will be on the left side of the midfield three – where he was excellent for Madrid – adding energy, trickery and dynamism. The counter-attacking was deeply ingrained in United’s style under Sir Alex Ferguson and Di Maria harks back to that cherished era.

He can also operate in an attacking three, on the left or the right. It all depends how Van Gaal wants to best utilise his offensive ability.

There are now issues over just where Juan Mata figures in all this but, whatever the permutations, Di Maria represents an incredibly exciting signing.

He may not be exactly what they require and he may be expensive but he provides Van Gaal with pace and options, something that will seem like a revelation to the Dutchman after an awful few weeks.

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Manchester United sign Angel Di Maria for record fee

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All smiles: Manchester United's new man Angel Di Maria.

Manchester United have completed the signing of Argentina midfielder Angel Di Maria for a British transfer record £59.7m (Dh363.4m).

Di Maria signs for Louis van Gaal's side on a five-year contract and will be available for United's trip to Burnley in the Premier League on Saturday.

The fee eclipses the previous British transfer record of £50million (Dh304m), which Chelsea paid for Fernando Torres in 2011 and also exceeds the £37.1million (Dh225.8m) sum United paid for Juan Mata in January.

In a statement on the club's official website, Di Maria said: "I am absolutely delighted to be joining Manchester United. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Spain and there were a lot of clubs interested in me, but United is the only club that I would have left Real Madrid for.

"Louis van Gaal is a fantastic coach with a proven track record of success and I am impressed by the vision and determination everyone has to get this club back to the top – where it belongs. I now just cannot wait to get started." 

The Argentinian won the man of the match award for his role in Real Madrid's victory over Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final last season. He also made the most assists (17) in the Spanish league last season.

Van Gaal added: "Angel is a world-class midfielder but most importantly he is a team player. There is no doubting his immense natural talent.

"He is a tremendously fast and incisive left-footed player who puts fear into the most accomplished defence. His dribbling skills and his ability to take on and beat opponents are a joy to watch. He is an excellent addition to the team."

United's summer spending total now stands at over £130million (Dh791.1m) following the signing of Di Maria.

Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera have already joined the club, and more signings are expected before the transfer window shuts on Monday night.

Daley Blind, Arturo Vidal and Kevin Strootman are understood to be on United's radar.

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Netherlands star’s agent denies Man Utd bid

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Big interest: Daley Blind (r) starred under United boss Louis van Gaal at this summer's World Cup.

Daley Blind's agent says Manchester United are yet to launch a bid to sign his client.

Blind is understood to be on Louis van Gaal's transfer shortlist, but the Manchester United manager has not made a move for the Ajax utility man, according to his representative Rob Jansen.

"At this moment Manchester United have not been in touch with me or Ajax about Daley and I'm not sitting here waiting for the call," Jansen told talkSPORT.

Van Gaal knows Blind well from his time in charge of the Dutch national side.

The 24-year-old son of former Holland international Danny Blind, can operate at left-back or in central midfield, where United are in desperate need of reinforcements.

United expect to complete the record £59.7million transfer of Angel di Maria from Real Madrid on Tuesday, and more signings are expected thereafter.

The 20-time English champions have been linked with a move for Blind's Holland team-mate Nigel de Jong, but Press Association Sport understands the AC Milan midfielder, who used to play for Manchester City, is not under consideration. United could make a move for Arturo Vidal, although the club have reservations about the state of the Juventus midfielder's right knee, which was operated on in May.

Central defence is another area where Van Gaal needs to strengthen before the transfer window closes, even though he bolstered his back line with the £16million acquisition of Marcos Rojo from Sporting Lisbon last week.

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