Pedro is not as good as Di Maria, but he ticks every box for United

David Cartlidge 13:03 05/08/2015
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  • The ideal man: Pedro would be a perfect fit for Manchester United.

    As the anger and frustration begins to subside post-Angel Di Maria’s departure from Manchester United, attention will switch to who the club will turn to next. Or, to be put more plainly, all eyes will be on Pedro.

    For some at United, there will be an underwhelming feeling at the prospect of the Barcelona forward trading Camp Nou for Old Trafford.

    Others, meanwhile, will be excited for the arrival of a player they’ve seen fit seamlessly, for the most part, into one of the best teams in the world. The truth? Pedro is somewhere in between.

    In a direct comparison as a player, he’s a considerable downgrade on Di Maria. Pedro lacks both the individual acumen and creative brilliance that the departing Argentine possesses.

    The ability to switch a game in an instant, offer up a piece of thought the other 19 outfield players on the field could not.

    There is an air of unpredictability about Di Maria’s game few can hold a candle to. It makes him an asset in most teams, but Manchester United are not most teams. They are one managed by Louis van Gaal.

    Di Maria’s days at United seemed doomed from the outset. Not because the player so clearly wasn’t enamoured with the idea of leaving Real Madrid, but that his skill set brought a direct conflict with the Dutchman’s methods.

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    The essence of Di Maria’s game goes against everything Van Gaal stands for. It’s why others, such as Juan Roman Riquelme and Rivaldo, fell foul of the Iron Tulip. Gifted and glamorous: Yes. But not known for their collective nous.

    This brings us to Pedro’s strengths and why, despite not being an improvement individually on Di Maria, he will be a marked improvement for the system of Van Gaal. It’s not just a canny or astute move, it is a move for the better. The Santa Cruz de Tenerife born forward suits the Van Gaal way.

    The arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger fit the same mould; though doubts remain about his injuries, the presence of the German in the midfield and the dressing room gives Van Gaal another foundation on which to build his transformation of United.

    Pedro’s role in the system could well be vital, given he will understand it better than most. Whether United switch between a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 – the latter of which Van Gaal has said he favours– Pedro fits in perfectly.

    Pep Guardiola once remarked few of his players understood playing as part of a 4-3-3 formation better, giving an appreciative nod to how the player can perform every duty with ease and suitable execution.

    In the age of control and conformism at Old Trafford, Pedro is an ideal solution to a host of problems that quickly need addressing. His deployment hands Van Gaal a reliable presence in the team, a player made in the mould of what he likes.

    From an attacking point of view his ability to dribble and drive at opponents, without the sort of reckless abandon associated with Di Maria, offers more security.

    In terms of pure finishing, his 98 goals in 318 appearances is an impressive tally from a wide berth. The timing of his runs, and his taking up of positions to retain width, are also noticeable. He can spring on the counter but, as a Barcelona player, knows how to unhinge a deep-lying defence too.

    Defensively, there is also an understanding of the role – something that cannot be understated when it comes to Van Gaal. Pedro is a workhorse, and would become a strategically placed soldier in the Dutchman’s system.

    He can track back, come inside to provide a more compact presence, and hustle in the attacking third as the first line of defence. His energy and commitment on the field will be a vast improvement on Di Maria, who on the back foot has a very narrow perspective of the game.

    United are not making a marquee signing here, they are making a sensible one. Pedro has his limitations, he’s not spectacular or a match-winner, and at times there will need to be an understanding of this.

    Just because he came from Barcelona doesn’t mean he should be expected to dazzle. Instead he will satisfy, and maybe even impress. After what has gone before with Di Maria, this could well be enough.

    Pedro ticks every box being checked by Van Gaal, and there a few players on the market capable of such a thing.