How do you solve a problem like Di Maria?


When Angel Di Maria first graced the English Premier League in United colors, he was a sight to behold. He was full of confidence and very explosive, he had the bag of tricks along with the sudden burst of pace. He ran at defenses, meandering and skipping over tackles. Even errant shots magically transformed to well timed assists. Di Maria definitely had his tail up, and it was there for all to see. There was so much excitement around the fleet footed Argentine. United fans lit up when they talked about the assist machine with the sweet left foot, who Ed Woodard and Van Gaal had managed to prise away from Real Madrid at premium cost.

That was then, the lights have certainly dimmed recently. All of a sudden the 2014 FIFAPro XI award recipient, once covered with star dust is surrounded by a foggy mist of uncertainty about his future place in Van Gaal’s starting lineup. He suffered public humiliation when the United coaching staff unceremoniously hooked him at half time against the struggling Black Cats. The prodigious young Belgian, Adnan Januzaj, showing him up on the day - instantly improving United fortunes by his stellar display of guile, and discipline to keep the United onslaught wide.

LVG is not blameless in this regard. The Argentine’s dip in form coincided with a relatively brief absence due to injury and a puzzling decision by LVG to start Di Maria as a forward. United lacking the legs in front, with the one-paced Van Persie and the exuberant but not awfully quick Falcao. The instability caused by the endless tinkering with formations has no doubt played a part in the haphazard form of Di Maria as he seems confused on what do, what spaces to occupy, and who to feed the ball to. That type of indecision has led to Di Maria being caught on the ball too often, and leads to losing possession of the ball.

Di Maria is a crafty player who needs space, like a gazelle, to run into. He likes to ‘get on his bike’ and take players on. He excels best in a deeper midfield position as part of a midfield trio where he has the luxury of more than one exit strategy. He is not a traditional inside winger like Ronaldo or Robben. Rather he uses his destructive power to turn and twist opponents, for the opportunity to create chances for his team mates. Thats his game, that is Di Maria for now. LVG must find a way to deploy his most expensive asset.