The Old Trafford broke into thunderous applause as British record signing Angel Di Maria who had been signed from Spanish giants Real Madrid for a sum of £59.7m scored a sumptuous lob, having won the ball just past the halfway line, linking up beautifully with Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney leaving Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel in a state of intense despair. The Argentinian’s impressive goal was voted as the Premier League’s goal of the season at the end of an extremely disappointing campaign for the Red Devils.
The ex-Real Madrid winger failed to reach the heights expected of him after kicking off the season on a high note. While several experts have slammed Van Gaal’s orthodox tactics which resulted in the winger being shunted across 6 different positions including central midfielder, others blamed the winger for being extremely lethargic on the field and utterly disinterested with regard to on-field proceedings.
With English winger Ashley Young being preferred ahead of him for the winger’s role, Di Maria decided to beat a hasty retreat from the club seeking fresh pastures at French club Paris St Germain who were more than happy to swoop him up for a sum of £44 million, with manager Laurent Blanc a self-confessed fan of his creativity and work ethics.
The Argentinian hit the ground running under Blanc with some new-found confidence after being afforded regular game time in a free-flowing system where he was surrounded by quality attackers like Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Di Maria’s heroics helped Paris St Germain clinch the Ligue 1 trophy with a 25 point gap over second-placed Monaco in an extremely joyful campaign both personally and professionally. Sadly, it all came crashing when the fans least expected it to.
The ex-Manchester United marksman was expected to lead from the front contributing with goals and assists which could finally help them realise the European dream. However, the sudden exit of legendary striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and manager Laurent Blanc with whom he shared a warm relationship resulted in the winger developing a sudden lack of enthusiasm and passion for the game with newly appointed manager Unai Emery was all too quick to notice.
Many critics went to the extent of labelling Di Maria as a player deserving a stint on the sidelines with the calls in the favour of Brazilian winger Lucas Moura’s inclusion providing to be difficult to resist. Spaniard Unai Emery decided to adopt an iron-fist approach with regard to the scenario, investing in the services of Geman starlet Julian Draxler from Wolfsburg who had been extremely impressive in recent times. This certainly had the desired effect with Di Maria demonstrating a desire to stake his claim at any cost, capturing the hearts of the fans and teammates with his improved performances. Belgian defender and PSG teammate Thomas Meunier certainly had the perfect response in store for all who wondered at the sharp improvement in gameplay from the Argentinian.
“The competition,” said Meunier. “Everyone knows that places are expensive, that from one week to the next you could be on the bench or on the field.
“If we want to have a chance to play games, we have to really work at training and in the games, to show we’re capable – and that’s what happened. Draxler is a very, very good player, and everyone understands that. Angel, quite simply, he doesn’t want to be a substitute. He’s been metamorphosed. He is just putting a little more in.”
The arrival of world record signing Neymar from FC Barcelona and French wonderkid Kylian Mbappe further played truant with the ex-Benfica lad restricted to a super-sub role. The frustrations had seemingly caught up with him with Di Maria expressing his frustrations about the lack of game-time following the arrival of new attacking recruits.
“Last season was difficult because of MCN,” he said. “However, whenever I was on the pitch, I tried to show what I could do. The then coach only wanted to play with three attackers. I do not know why I did not play so much last season. You will have to ask the coach from that time.”
However, the arrival of ex-Borussia Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel who has expressed a keen desire to deploy the attacker in midfield promises to elevate him to the role of emerging as PSG’s X-Factor. Tuchel’s system requires central midfielders who enjoy long range off-ball movements and can rotate effectively with wingers as well. The Argentinian certainly enjoys these attributes and is also capable of creating space for the attackers with his vision and creativity. Di Maria can also break the lines of the opposition and play passes with a higher degree of risk effectively which makes him the perfect man in midfield tactically.
PSG have may well have hit the jackpot with the addition of a creative footballer enjoying great vision to the midfield department which has been sorely missed in the previous years. The European dream will certainly not be a step too far if this decision pays off.
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