Di Maria experiment fails, now comes the fallout

July 26, 2015 Tags: , Reads 21 comments
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In the end it was just four words that ended Angel di Maria’s time at Manchester United: Louis van Gaal’s curt assertion that he “does not know why” the Argentinian failed to board a plane to the United States on Saturday. Four words that will hasten Di Maria’s transfer to Paris Saint-Germain in the coming week and bring the player’s spell at Old Trafford to a close in something approaching ignominy.

Already on a short clock – with a deal almost agreed between United and Qatari-backed PSG – United’s record purchase is unlikely to play for the club again. It is just 11 months since the player joined in British-record deal. Indeed, with the saga approaching a close the narrative will turn to who is at fault for Di Maria’s exit. After all, United paid some £59 million for the talented forward who should have accelerated the club’s return to the sport’s élite.

In the United camp there is little doubt about Di Maria’s motivation for missing a routine flight: the impending move to Parc de Princes. While the ink is not yet dry on a deal, with the clubs reportedly negotiating a fee in the region of £45 million, the widely held assumption is that Di Maria will line up in the Blue of Les Parisiens in the coming season

Whether Di Maria was encouraged to stay home by the club, or agent Jorge Mendes, on Saturday PSG manager Laurent Blanc did little to pour cold water on an inflammatory situation.

“There is an anticipation he is going to come to the US but as to which jersey he is going to wear, we don’t know yet,” said former United defender Blanc. “If he does make a change hopefully it will be for Paris Saint-Germain. Of course a coach would like to see somebody like him.”

The fallout from Di Maria’s transfer brought supporters to the sharp end of the debate about the player’s failure at United, although the truth is rarely as stark as often presented in the polarised world of social media.

Di Maria’s fall has been steep though – from those heady first few games at Old Trafford, to a place on the bench for much of the spring. When it mattered most Van Gaal turned to lesser players than Di Maria to drag the Reds through patchy form to fourth place in the Premier League. It is a damning indictment of a player who boasts all the tools to be a success at United.

There is no solitary cause of Di Maria’s failure though. Certainly, the player’s attitude comes under renewed scrutiny after he failed to join his team-mates in Santa Clara. The belief that Di Maria, somehow, rarely felt at one with United is catalysed when considering how rapidly the early energy of standout autumn displays dissipated into what appeared to many as indifference as the season wore on.

Much of the player’s change in attitude is laid at the door of a January break-in, where burglars used scaffolding and ladders to rob the Cheshire family home. With wife and daughter present during the break-in the Di Marias retrenched to the safety of a Manchester hotel. The family never returned home; the player’s performances could not recover either.

That form was aided little by a succession of minor injuries to thigh, hamstring and a variety of muscles, although the player missed just four games in total for United through injury alone. Another three passed the winger by after a bizarre FA Cup dismissal against Arsenal in March. It precipitated Di Maria’s exclusion from Van Gaal’s side; a player that could not be relied on, nor one who could be trusted.

Nor was Van Gaal’s perpetual insistence on changing the team’s shape helpful – or Di Maria’s role within it. In total the player featured in nine different positions across midfield and attack for United last season from just 32 appearances. Di Maria started the campaign as one of three in central midfield. It is the role many believe is the former Real Madrid player’s best. He shifted to a role in a diamond and also featured on both wings. For a time the player was deployed as an auxiliary forward ‘in the hole’ and, most oddly of all, as an outright striker in three matches during the spring.

Yet, this combination of factors – form, attitude, fitness and tactics – means that Di Maria completed just 16 games in total for United last season. It is scant reward for the riches paid to both player and former club.

Still, the failure will be glossed over at United. The club once described as “cynical” by Gary Neville has already moved on, with Barcelona winger Pedro Rodríguez the proposed £23 million replacement. The Spaniard will offer competition in wide areas to Ashley Young, Juan Mata, Memphis Depay, and – after a star turn against Barcelona on Saturday afternoon – Adnan Januzaj.

Pedro scored 45 goals between 2009 and 2011 for Barça from a wide left role, yet could not always find a place in Luis Enrique’s side last season. The 27-year-old was a regular substitute – and regularly substituted – to such an extent that he played the full 90 minutes on just 19 occasions from 50 appearances in all competitions.

Still, it is that relative lack of importance that is driving Pedro away from Barcelona – a club the player has been associated with for more than a decade. He will bring pace, goals – there have been at least 10 a season for the last six campaigns – and a genuine team ethic to United. Indeed, what Pedro lacks in technical brilliance compared to Di Maria might be compensated, in part at least, by a work-rate that is likely to please his new manager.

Meanwhile, over in Paris the welcoming party for Di Maria will begin once United has, with a little irony, faced his new club in Chicago on Thursday. The proposed £45 million fee will leave the Reds with a paper loss on the player in the region of £15 million, although much of that is attributable to forex movements over the past 12 months. The club will recoup €63 million of the €75 million paid to Madrid, with no bonuses due, and has amortised any loss in value over the past year.

PSG will be Di Maria’s fifth club in a decade as a professional. And it was left to another wandering maverick to roll out the Parisian red carpet.

“If you get a chance to play with Di María it is a fantastic thing,” said Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is now at his seventh European club.

“He is a fantastic player who plays for the team. He brings pace. He brings big quality and for sure he will make our team even better than it is today. We will receive him with open arms.”

So too will Blanc, who is charged with finding more from a player presumably less comfortable in Manchester than he will be in Paris. And if the Di Maria once past returns in the French capital then more questions will be asked – both of the player and his former manager.


Ludo - July 26, 2015 Reply

Leaving a club this way..a club which a lot money for you…because he had a hold up in house…with all respect…pay his plane-ticket to where-ever he wants…not woth to be talked about…what a sick mentality…a BELGIAN UNITED FAN;

simon stephens - July 26, 2015 Reply

Brilliant writing and analysis.

Red Deceiver - July 26, 2015 Reply

almost as good analysis as mine: he’s too skinny and Maria is a girls name. Same conclusion thou…

Fusilli Jerry - July 27, 2015 Reply

This was always a transfer made in hell. Van Gaal’s alarming assertion on leaving the World Cup for United’s pre-season tour, that absolutely no transfers would be pursued until he’d assessed the squad, inevitably meant there’d be a desparate trolley dash in which parasites like Mendes could dictate terms on behalf of clients like Madrid struggling to believe their luck. Combined with Woodward’s short-sighted belief at the time that paying big, regardless of true worth, automatically made sense – shoring up commercial partners’ perception of a global behemoth despite that 7th placed finish.

No doubt the uncertainties wrought upon the players by van Gaal’s churning formations damaged di Maria, because the truth no one likes to admit to is his form had already plummeted alarmingly well before the break-in at his house. That crime became an oh-so-convenient excuse until the sending off against Arsenal shone a light that could no longer be ignored: this was a player with the talent but not the temperament to help a club in difficult transition. That United immediately started playing coherently in his suspension-enforced absence was the all too appropriate coda.

Under the circumstances £45m is probably the best that can be expected – the fee PSG would have paid last summer until van Gaal based his entire transfer strategy on World Cup games he caught on tv from Holland’s hotel. And now we’ve helpfully subsidised Madrid’s rip-off fee for them.

With Pedro seemingly lined up on the conveyer belt: transfer mistakes without financial consequence: feels like City in their Robinho, Santa Cruz phase. Difficult to deny Wenger’s accusation that we’re trying to buy a title once ours on sporting merit. If that purchase power is to be put to better use this time round though, surely that means the player we should have targeted in the first place: Marco Reus.

Alec Sverguson - July 27, 2015 Reply

Ready to see the back of him. Had such high hopes when he signed, but he clearly can’t cut it at United so why get sentimental about it? Let’s cut our losses and see what we can get with the 40 odd million.

The Rookie - July 27, 2015 Reply

Who wins in all this?

Mendes, like always.

Subterranean Steve - July 27, 2015 Reply

“I’m not the kind of coach who just goes out and buys players for the sake of it. I’m a coach who wants to – and can – improve players.” – Louis van Gaal.

Looking forward to seeing it happen.

Mikael - July 29, 2015 Reply

I don’t know about you but I am very happy that the Glazer money aka the fans money is spent on quality players whether they are massive hits or misses.

I am happy with the transfer business so far including letting DiMaria go. He is a person after all and lets face it England is not for everyone. So he must be sold and Utd should recoup as much money as the market allows at the moment thats a part of football. Always was and always will be.

I also appreciate the fact most of the players we have signed have been influenced by the huge wages but I am sure no amount of money would have persuaded them to play for wee Dave. So I respect LvGs stature and pulling power helped United out when in a tight spot last year.

But I am beginning to wonder if the manager is being too cute and focussing showing everyone how smart he is rather than winning. So the constant tinkering. I am no expert but making Herrera a bench player seems to be very illogical. just as playing Memphis behind Rooney is.

But the biggest problem I have with LvG right now is how could we begin a season with Wayne as the main striker. Has football matches stopped being won on goals recently. What will happen for the rest 8 months when Rooney does not score (as he historically has purple patches twice a year in October and early January only)?

Rohit-chaturvedi - July 27, 2015 Reply

Wow only a few lines on his attitude? A guy comes on phenomenal wages, takes the celebrated no. 7 shirt, around 1 month back said he is committed. Then one fine day he refuses to join his team mates. I think its all about attitude and his lack of trying.( If LVG didnt want him he would have been not called to join the pre season like RVP nd Valdez) He refused to face competition and for me he is just a quitter who is going to an easier league to get good wages for less workload and competition. Period!! Thats my 2 cents on it

Subterranean Steve - July 27, 2015 Reply

It’s questionable whether Di Maria ever wanted to come to United in the first place. He was lined up to go to PSG until the deal was gazumped by Woodward’s 59.5 million quid bid. At that amount Real and Mendes’ eyes lit up and Di Maria’s journey from Madrid to Paris took a detour via Manchester.

Of course, it only was a detour.

denton davey - July 27, 2015 Reply

You’re right; TheAngel came to UTD in much the same way that Robinho ended up at “Manchester” – wrong club, wrong time, and totally led-by-his-nose by the agent.

That said, he’s been a spectacular bust and getting 3/4s of the fee back isn’t bad business – especially if that money could be used to bring in two of Reus or Muller and Ramos. Any accountant worth-his-salt can turn that 1/4 “loss” into something positive, too.

Sometimes it’s just best to cut-the-losses and move; this is one of those times.

James Acaster - July 27, 2015 Reply

The psychology of that player that huge of a signing was never right. Di Marie is the man who gets you under the radar. When you exert your attention on the more obvious consistent threat i.e Messi or Ronaldo and do not provision for that work man like winger who pulls magic out the bag occasionally. To have him as your attacking center piece or ‘go to man’ is to disrupt this. He’ll feel forced to kiss a plague’s worth of frog’s to find that princess/assist. This one of the main reasons why he is better deeper in the first 3 of the 4-3-3. I also think his lightweight sprinting, (quicker pick up than top speed) is negated by the premier leagues penchant for more explosive athletes over smaller technical footballers. He has less chance to get away but now get away he must.

Mikael - July 29, 2015 Reply

I think your thoughts are on point.

Rob B. - July 27, 2015 Reply

Great read on Di Maria by – quality, as usual #MUFC #GoodbyeAngel #NotFussed

ahmed farid - July 27, 2015 Reply

I have never been impressed with the sick mentality of Argentinians that have played for united in the past. Veron didnt like it when he lost his place in the team, heize the same & was even ready to leave for Liverpool only for fergie to stop the move & send him to Real, the same with tevez..now Di Maria. sick attitude and mentality. No wonder fergie hates Argentines.

Ed - July 27, 2015 Reply

Steady on! Probably more to do with individual personalities than a whole country

ahmed farid - July 27, 2015 Reply

yes bro u r right. I guess i just got frustrated with di maria’s situation. A great player & united fans have always been by his side. I hope he stays and repays our faith in him. Great article.

Nick Dineen - July 27, 2015 Reply

Good piece. Sorry to see him go but it simply hasn’t worked. Pity.

Enoch - July 27, 2015 Reply

Although there’s been a lot of talk about Di Maria going to PSG because he failed to board the flight. The thing is Rojo was supposed to be on that flight as well but BOTH of them did not join the club in the US.

So it’s either Rojo and Di Maria are BOTH leaving or something happened that they could not board the flight. It could be immigration. Maybe someone lost their passport. None of us know what happened and I don’t think we should speculate till we find out why BOTH of them missed the flight.

UnitedForever - July 27, 2015 Reply

Great Article!
Question for you Ed: So if the deal goes through and Di Maria does go to PSG, will it be the biggest failure of Man United in terms of the transfers?

franco - July 29, 2015 Reply

our midfield still looks tasty without him!

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