The league needs Angel Di Maria to prosper at Manchester United

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There’s a great tradition in this country: when a big club signs a famous player for a large amount of money, great delight is taken when the deal proves to be a failure.  It’s natural.  English football is a land of separated wealth and those who support the have nots have little more than the hope of schadenfreude to keep them warm.

Angel Di Maria is the latest example of this phenomenon; since his £59m move from Real Madrid, the Argentine has been an enormous let down and has barely resembled the player he was at the Santiago Bernebeu.  Why, who knows - but the important thing is that we all got to smirk about it.

Or is it?

Di Maria’s failure this year has been a problem for Manchester United and Louis Van Gaal, but team and manager have conspired to find a different way out of their attacking malaise.  Di Maria was bought to provide a thrust which he has never delivered, but a reallocated Juan Mata and an oddly resurgent Ashley Young has meant that, really, the team hasn’t suffered as it might have done.

Rather than being an actual problem, Di Maria’s transitional difficulties have created an awkwardness.  Van Gaal has been brave enough to repeatedly exclude the most expensive player in British football history and, in so doing, has prevented him from being a week-to-week obstruction to United’s football.  Instead, he’s just the biggest of white elephants, emerging occasionally from the substitutes’ bench to do nothing in particular.

And that’s a shame.

We cannot pretend that the Premier League is at the forefront of the club game any more.  It’s the market-leader for commercialism, smugness and hyperbole, certainly, but it’s pure footballing qualities are more in dispute than at any time in its history.  We need Di Maria - or at least we need players like Di Maria to perform to the extent of their abilities.  This is not the land of milk and honey that it once was, because the modern temptation is for the game’s finest talent to migrate to Spain rather than England.  There are exceptions, of course, and the competition is still endowed with a couple of Eden Hazards and a few Sergio Agueros, but there’s still a creeping second-class feel to the contemporary Premier League.

Di Maria’s transfer was a strike against that trend.  Realistically, he was attracted to this country by the prestige of Manchester United and the wealth they were able to offer, not by the league itself, but his move still resembled something of a victory for the competition.  A division’s grandeur is defined by myriad factors, including but not limited to its infrastructure, its supporters and, unfortunately, the terms of its television deal, but it’s also reliant on the calibre of its stars.   A high-performing Di Maria would make a statement about its health and would, theoretically, attract other players of a similar stature.

As it is, this transfer is becoming a caveat.  The player is talented enough to succeed here and maybe his inability to do so says more about him than it does about English football but, irrespective of the reality, this saga will still serve as a warning to that class of talent. England is a reputation-wrecker.

Tribalism blurs these lines.  The temptation is to look at the Di Maria situation only within the context in which it effects or does not effect our own team.  That’s understandable, of course, but bigger picture thinking probably dictates that we should want these guys to succeed and that, like never before, the league needs its icons.

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1 Comment on "The league needs Angel Di Maria to prosper at Manchester United"

  1. LVG decided he had to have a marquee signing and decided Di Maria was that player without going in to his style of play at Real Madrid. the outcome was despite an excellent start he began to drift in and out of games. La Liga is a total different style compared to the EPL, which LVG had not taken into account. He was asked to play a style of football which was foreign to him. He was not used to the very tight marking in the EPL and that certain players would willingly ‘take him out’. However, his biggest problem was the attack at his home in front of his wife and daughter. I don’t think he has gotten over it and until he leaves Manchester, probably never will. Unlike the EPL, La Liga has only 2 top class clubs in Real Madrid and Barcelona. It is quite a rarity for them to ever lose at home and not that many away games. In the EPL it has been proven that most clubs on their day can beat any of the top 4. Example, Newcastle beating Chelsea, Stoke hammering Liverpool. I expect to see him next season at PSG, where his style of football will be better suited.

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