Ever since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid, Manchester United have lacked that star quality in attack, a player whose mere name drives fear into the hearts of opposing defenders. Although they have managed to get through it for a few years through sheer grit and determination, the void still exists. Perhaps not as big as the one in central midfield, but equally as important.
So, it wasn’t difficult to see why the Red Devils have decided to smash the British transfer record to sign Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid. The Argentine winger will add plenty of pace and penetration to an attack, that has so far lacked either. With the addition of Di Maria, United have finally replaced Ronaldo with a world-class winger who will ooze quality and create plenty of chances.
While it is true that Angel Di Maria is one of the best in the world at what he does, the question of whether he is what the club needs is something that needs a much deeper introspection. For all of his qualities, Di Maria is essentially a winger who is adept at beating opponents and delivering a killer through ball. Although he played as a midfielder last season for Madrid, that was only because he had Bale, Benzema and Cristiano ahead of him and he was unable to break that trio.
What last season demonstrated gives us a better understanding as to why the Red Devils had to break the bank to secure his signature. Last season, Di Maria was used as the more attacking midfielder in a three-man central midfield and while many thought that he would struggle in that role, he showed a remarkable appetite for learning and adapting into a new role. The energy and the enthusiasm he displayed in not just starting attacks, but also defending and breaking attacks down showed that he had the willingness to adapt and learn in order to fit into the style the team wants to play.
It is perhaps this mentality of his, rather than his explosive pace, stunning acceleration or his innate ability to pick the perfect through ball, that convinced Van Gaal to go all out to secure his signature. While the attack is generally considered as United’s strong suit, their first three performances of the season have done nothing to reiterate that. The Red Devils have looked bereft of pace or penetration in attack and the attacking trio haven’t quite lived up to their billing, so one can certainly understand the need to add to that. After all, when a world class player who can improve your squad is available, it makes little sense to let him go.
But then again the question is not whether Di Maria is a good signing, which he most certainly is, but whether he is the signing that the club need at the moment. So far, central defense and central midfield have been the main problem areas for the side and the question of why they haven’t been strengthened yet is something that is bothering a lot of fans. While injuries can to a certain extent explain their limp displays so far, the fact of the matter is that even if all the defenders are fully fit, they are still not experienced enough to lead Manchester United to the top four, let alone the title.
It is not just the defense that needs strengthening, but the midfield as well, looks short on both quantity and quality. Injuries to Carrick and Herrera have made matters even worse as the club are stuck with a player who has failed to live up to his initial high expectations in Cleverley and a player who is struggling to get back to the player he once was, in Fletcher. Fellaini isn’t even the reckoning anymore which tells you volumes about how well he is regarded at Old Trafford.
The club’s move for Arturo Vidal seems to have hit a stumbling block with Van Gaal reportedly having doubts about the player’s knees, while Ajax’s Daley Blind has been so often linked with the club that you would think that the club would’ve at least acknowledge that they are interested in him.
Instead of going out and buying world class reinforcements in defense and midfield, the club have gone out and purchased an attacker for £60 million in a move that smacks of desperation. The arrival of Di Maria while a good thing, is unlikely to be the club’s last bit action in the transfer market and that is the hope that most supporters are clinging onto. For if it isn’t, then the back-three that Van Gaal is so adamant in playing is likely to be shelved in favor of a 4-3-3 or some other variant of that. Because the arrival of Di Maria heralds a new dawn for Manchester United, as they have finally got a genuine world class player in his prime, but the bigger question is whether he is the answer to their woes?