For those not keeping track of the goings on in English football, former champions Man Utd crashed out of the League Cup during the week when they suffered a shock 4-0 defeat at the hands of MK Dons, who play in League Two – the third tier of English football. The result means their only chance of any silverware this season rests on the Premier League or FA Cup, and continues the difficult start to the competitive campaign under new boss Louis van Gaal, who is yet to see his new club win a game since his arrival. The pre-season had looked encouraging, with United managing to beat just about anyone who came up against them, but the competitive side of things has taken a real turn for the worse, and that is where the real money lies.
While there is little doubting van Gaal’s ability and credentials – he is the man the Red Devils fans have been clamouring for, after all – things have not gone the way that many would have thought ahead of the season. Of course, things will surely get better for the Old Trafford faithful, and van Gaal will hopefully be able to install the kind of footballing system in the north west that saw his Netherlands side reach the semi-finals of this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, culminating in a third place finish. The man was praised for his managerial nouse, and welcomed to the Theatre of Dreams with open arms.
The thing is, the aforementioned defeat to MK Dons came just hours after the club confirmed the British record signing of Real Madrid winger Angel Di Maria for a fee reportedly worth around £60m. As far as our fantasy football game goes, of course, he is a snip at a mere €12.50m, though as he is yet to make a competitive appearance this season he has no points on the board just yet. This deal will likely see United possess more of an attacking threat down the left hand side than they have done recently, with Di Maria taking up the position held by the legendary Ryan Giggs for years. His supply quality is proven – he racked up a great 370 points last season playing for the Galacticos with 17 assists, as well as contributing four goals to the cause. This all came from 34 appearances overall, with 27 starts and seven appearances as a sub.
Six yellow cards through the course of the campaign did mean he lost a few points on that front, but if he is able to keep himself out of the ref’s book a little more consistently there is no reason why he won’t be able to at least repeat that tally, if not improve on it. Sure, he may not be guaranteed a start every single game, but at a shade under £60m United aren’t too likely to want him warming the bench up week after week either – he will usually be on the teamsheet’s starting 11, and his presence can bring an extra dimension to the side moving forward – specifically his pace.
He has quick feet, and as mentioned before his great assist record last season means that the likes of Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck (should he stay at the club) will have a constant flow of opportunities being supplied their way, opening up the potential for more goals, and a more consistent threat in front of their opponent’s goals than they have managed so far. While it is of course far too early in the season to be comparing fantasy points’ totals to last year, Rooney notched 17 goals last term, with Welbeck contributing nine and Hernandez four. Those figures will be minimum benchmarks of ambition this season, and van Gaal will almost certainly give these guys the opportunity to improve on those totals – and hopefully surpass them. That is, arguably, one of the primary reasons for importing the 26-year-old Argentina international.
Of course there is also the young Belgian, Adnan Januzaj to think about as well – his pace coupled with Di Maria’s will mean opposing defenders will have to think quickly on their feet at the best of times, and if Rooney is able to really hit his stride and make maximum use of his footballing brain times could be torrid for visitors to Old Trafford going forward.
Basically, give some serious thought to including any combination of Man Utd forward players going forward – while Di Maria will surely find it tough to completely rejuvenate the underachieving squad on his own, he will bring with him a fresh presence, enthusiasm and pace to the first time – and that looks like a good bet to bode well for van Gaal’s team by the time the season really gets going.