All posts by Jamie Ward

January Transfer Window To Save Season?

Ok, I’m writing this directly after our fourth consecutive Premier League home draw, the 1-1 stalemate with West Ham United. As a result, I may be a little on the flustered side…

The January transfer window is now a little over a month away, and it appears as if it has now become a period in which may define our season. Admittedly, our performances are beyond comparison when measured with those of the Louis Van Gaal era, but when we flip back to the same period last season, we sat in second place only a point behind Leicester City who were perched on top of the Premier League table. We are also currently seven points worse off than at the same stage a year ago. So, whilst the performances do have a more fluid feel to them, it seems the killer instinct that we saw so often under Sir Alex Ferguson has well and truly dispersed. That’s not completely down to the aforementioned former manager.

Jose Mourinho was aware of the grand rebuilding job that was needed at Old Trafford when he took over the managers position this past summer, but I’m not sure he realised as to what scale that rebuilding job would incur. The deadwood (Fellaini, I’m looking at you here) still linger around like a 1990s Cranberries song and it is the January transfer window that offers Mourinho an opportunity to bring in some fresh meat capable of pushing United back towards a top four challenge, as unlikely as that may seem based on the evidence presented to us at this moment in time.

Traditionally, the January transfer window is a tough time for any top club to add any top reinforcements, which poses the question of exactly who Mourinho will target as 2017 hits. The rumour mills have, of course, been in overdrive, so let’s take a look at exactly who could be on Jose’s radar…

Willian

The Chelsea midfielder is one that has been linked with the club in recent days, reinforced by his past links with Mourinho. It is true that the Brazilian enjoyed his best moments at Stamford Bridge during the club’s last Premier League triumph and he has struggled to become a mainstay in the team since Conte took over this past summer.

With Chelsea not currently participating in European football, Willian could be viewed as a very real possibility and, with United desperately short of out-and-out wingers, Mourinho could turn his attentions back towards his former club.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of Willian. I accept he had a cracking opening couple of seasons at Chelsea, but his form has tailed off at an alarming rate. I dare say that there would be some Chelsea fans willing to drive him to Old Trafford themselves.

Victor Lindelof

Perhaps one of the biggest worries currently is the lack of defensive cover. Mourinho has regularly spoken of his desire to add to his back four, more so with the injury to Eric Bailly. As a result, it is reported that Benfica centre back Victor Lindelof is high on the list of priorities for the manager.

The Swedish international is currently one of the hottest prospects in Europe, with a number of clubs rumoured to be looking at the 22-year-old and it is thought that Mourinho could be looking to act early to bring the young defender to Old Trafford.

A traditional no-nonsense type of defender, Lindelof likes to play out from the back, which only enhances his reputation. This is the kind of defender in which Mourinho needs at Old Trafford. Acting swiftly on this transfer is imperative. After all, even Zlatan is keen.

Gelson Martins

Another winger heavily linked with a switch to Old Trafford is Sporting Lisbon’s Portuguese international Gelson Martins.

At 21-years-old, Martins is another who is thought could have a glittering career, having progressed through the same academy system once occupied by Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani. This is an option which, to me, is far more appealing than that of Willian, although it is thought that the youngster would possess a high transfer fee.

Martins is also comfortable operating as a right-back, enhancing his appeal to Mourinho.

James Rodriguez

This is the rumour that just won’t go away isn’t it?

Rodriguez has struggled to maintain a regular place at Real Madrid in recent times and it is thought that the Colombian could be on his way out of the Bernabeu. However, these rumours have been at the forefront for some time now and anything concrete is yet to materialise.

With Chelsea also rumoured to be interested in the attacker, Mourinho may be keen to explore this option further. James is undoubtedly a very talented player and one that would definitely enhance our attacking options although, with the recent injury to Gareth Bale, Madrid may be tempted to hold onto their asset until the summer.

So there you have it. A quick round-up of the types of names the club have been linked with thus far. Personally, I think it is too early to have any kind of indication as to who Mourinho will target in January and I would make improving the back four a priority. Yes, we are struggling for wingers, with Rashford and Mata both regularly played on the flanks, but I feel it is at the back where we are particularly vulnerable.

There will be several names linked with the club between now and New Years Day. Who would you like to see in red? Please comment below

Could Michael Keane be on his way back to Manchester United?

First there was Paul Pogba, now Michael Keane could be in for a shock return to Manchester United after manager Jose Mourinho has reportedly stepped up his interest in luring the 23-year-old back to Old Trafford.

According to ESPN, Keane caught the eye of the Manchester United boss during Burnley’s recent visit to Old Trafford, putting in an impressive display as his club came away with a credible 0-0 draw. A string of stellar performances this season have also seen Keane force his way into the England squad.

Keane first signed a professional contract with Manchester United in 2011 and featured for the club five times, with his only Premier League appearance coming as a substitute in 2014 in the 1-1 draw with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. A loan move to Burnley followed shortly after, his fourth loan move away from the club after spending time at Leicester City, Derby County and Blackburn Rovers, and his move to Turf Moor was made permanent in January 2015.

The former academy graduate was pivotal during Burnley’s march to the Championship title last season, appearing in all but two of the clubs league games last term. He has remained an ever-present again this season, excelling at the heart of Sean Dyche’s defence.

With Jose Mourinho becoming increasingly critical of his sides frailties at the back, it seems Michael Keane, who won the Reserve Player of the Year in 2012, could be set to rejoin the club, and his former youth teammate Paul Pogba, this coming January.

Mourinho Out? What Utter Garbage!

Last night I unleashed a Tweet on the world in response to a growing rumour that a small section of fans were planning to fly a ‘Mourinho Out’ banner in an upcoming fixture over Old Trafford. The rumour both saddened and angered me in equal measure and the response to the aforementioned Tweet has surfaced the same emotions.

It must be said at this point that the ‘Mourinho Out’ brigade is an incredibly small minority, but one that must be shamed nonetheless. After all, it is a complete and utter farce that any United ‘fan’ feels this way after only 10 league games.

In my Tweet I claimed that Mourinho had inherited the worst United squad in 30 years and, whilst I appreciate that this may be a little exaggerated (I’m looking at the late 80s and early 90s here), I flat out refuse to believe that the squad inherited by David Moyes in 2013 was worse than this one. Yes, I accept that it was ageing and, yes, I accept that Ferguson did not leave a squad capable of dominating for a number of years but what he did leave behind was a squad which won the Premier League the season prior. And I’m not talking about winning the Premier League with the final kick of the season (Lest We Forget), I am talking about a squad that won the Premier League title by an absolute canter…by 11 points in fact.

David Moyes took over a squad of winners. Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, Giggs, Carrick, Rooney, De Gea, Kagawa, Van Persie. Whichever way you look at it, this is a team that absolutely stormed the Premier League title. Please don’t tell me that that squad can go from finishing in the manner in which they did to becoming the seventh best club side in the country. Finishing in the club’s worst position of the Premier League era was not down to what Moyes inherited, it was down to his shortfalls as a manager, his inability to build on the squad during the summer (Fellaini doesn’t count) and the way he mercilessly axed the backroom staff upon his arrival.

A few even pointed out that Mourinho inherited a much better squad, containing the likes of Pogba, Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan and Bailly. It goes without saying that these are top drawer players, but inherit them he did not. These are players that Mourinho has brought to the club to improve the team, which they undoubtedly will do.

Then I asked if not Mourinho, then who? Along came the usual suspects. Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Ronald Koeman. None of these are available, so who else? Diego Simeone was a popular choice. Which got me thinking. How many of these ‘fans’ suggesting Simeone have sat through the utter dross in which LVG served us and then sat through an Atletico Madrid game? I’m not taking anything away from Simeone at this point, he has done a staggering job at Atletico, but he has achieved this in a way that mas made his team difficult to break down and very defensive. Do we forget that one of the biggest arguments of the LVG era was that he was playing a style of football that was alien to Manchester United fans? Diego Simeone would play an incredibly similar style.

It seems the modern day Manchester United fan has turned in to any other football fan. Spoilt, and eager for quick success. And spoilt is the key word here. Absolutely were we spoilt under Sir Alex Ferguson. The man will never be emulated and there isn’t a manager in worldwide football who is anywhere near the same level is which Fergie was. However, what we have with Jose Mourinho is the closest thing available. A man who has won the league title at every club he has managed, a man who has delivered the Champions League on two occasions, the best club manager in the world today. And, yes, before some genius points out that LVG holds a similar record, Mourinho has won these titles after 1979.

I love our club, and I love the majority of our fans. As a rule of thumb, we don’t go around grumbling for a change of manager every five minutes. I admit that I was part of the ‘LVG out’ crew, and I understand that this may seem contradictory, but it didn’t take a genius to see that change was needed in that department. Mourinho will need at least three transfer windows to sort out the mess left behind from the previous two managers. There is no quick fix, and that we will have to accept.

Whilst the result against Burnley was incredibly disappointing, we had 37 shots on goal which I believe to be a Premier League record. I’m not even sure we had 37 shots last season. Fickle fans forget that Burnley are incredibly resilient. Arsenal needed an injury time winner to edge them out whilst Liverpool fared even worse, losing 1-0, despite battering them for 90 minutes.

A suggestion for the minority. Get behind your club, get behind your manager, or go support City. We don’t want you.

Jose Mourinho WAS Given Manchester United Option Three Years Ago

Jose Mourinho WAS reportedly given the opportunity to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford when the Scot ended his reign at Manchester United three years ago, according to the Daily Mail

It had been thought that David Moyes was the man sought out by Sir Alex Ferguson to follow in his footsteps, but the Daily Mail claim that it was indeed Jose Mourinho who was thought to be the man to pick up the pieces following Ferguson’s departure in 2013, a view shared by many a Manchester United fan at the time.

Mourinho, who tenure at Real Madrid was also coming to an end, was allegedly involved in a two-way meeting with Ed Woodward in the back of a car with the Manchester United executive vice chairman having flown to Spain to try to convince him to take over at the 20-time English champions. However, Woodward saw his advances scuppered after Roman Abramovic had already convinced his former boss to return to Stamford Bridge at Chelsea.

With United diverting their attention to David Moyes, it is thought that Mourinho was interested in the job at Old Trafford, a belief that has long been rumoured following the alleged meeting between him and Sir Alex Ferguson during their Champions League second round tie where Ferguson informed Mourinho of his plan to retire at the end of the current campaign. However, with no offer forthcoming, Chelsea swooped to get their man following the unpopular temporary reign of Rafa Benitez. Spanish journalist Diego Torres famously claimed in his book “Prepárense Para Perder” that Mourinho was furious when he was seemingly overlooked for the job over David Moyes, but these latest reports seem to rubbish those claims.

As we know, Chelsea went on to regain the Premier League title within two years of Mourinho’s appointment, whilst United suffered their worst period of the Premier League era under Moyes and Louis Van Gaal respectively. Three years on, United finally have their man as they look to bring back the glory years to Old Trafford.

Are Manchester United Better Under Jose Mourinho?

Some people like fast cars. Others enjoy fine dining while some like nothing more than settling down at the end of the day with a glass of wine and an episode of Eastenders. As for me, I get excited when I unearth a new statistic article.

I know, I know, it’s pretty depressing right? I don’t know why, but something feels pretty damn good about being able to pull out another useless piece of information as a trump card in yet another football related argument. So imagine my delight when I woke up this morning to a fantastic piece comparing United’s start to this campaign to that of last season under LVG, courtesy of Sky Sports.

It is worth noting at this point that, at the same stage last season, United were top of the table and three points better off than they currently stand today, a statistic that has been pointed out to myself, as I am sure it has many a United fan, several times since Sunday afternoon. However, that statistic alone doesn’t begin to tell even half the tale.

Perhaps the most compelling statistic of the piece is the percentile gem which lists United as top of the pile when it comes to shots on goal this season, with 92, compared to 54 last season, which was placed as the 17th best in the Premier League.

As we are well aware, United last season became almost a chore to watch. Sideways and backwards passing became the norm, whilst attacks on goal were just a mere rose-tinted memory of the Sir Alex Ferguson days. Mourinho seems to have altered the mentality of the squad in his short stint as manager, cutting the amount of passes down to 3623 from 4053. Interestingly, 31.5% of these passes have come within the final third, a near 2% jump on last season.

David Moyes was famously criticised during his tenure as Manchester United boss for throwing cross after cross into the opposition box, with LVG opting to play patient passing football in order to create the killer chance. Mourinho has opted with a mixture of the two to try and recreate the attacking fluidity of that seen during United’s stellar years, seeing his side launch 179 crosses, the 2nd best in the Premier League, compared to only 123 last term.

Mourinho also seems content with allowing the opposition to do all the running, with United currently sitting bottom of the pile when it comes to distance covered, with 735.6km. This could be key when it comes to the latter parts of the season when it comes to the fitness of key players. Under LVG, the team had covered almost 70km more than that seen by Mourinho’s men. Interestingly, United have completed over 150 more sprints than at the same stage as last season, with 3524, with that evidence pointing to the fact that Mourinho is trying to insert a more counter-attacking feel to his side.

See, hasn’t that made you feel better? We may have felt smug when we sat at the top of the tree in early October 2015 but lest us forget how quickly that smugness faded. Whilst we may be in sixth, the stats don’t lie. This is a United team that creates chances and that is giving us reason to enjoy life at Old Trafford once again.

Forget your fast cars, your fine dining, wine and Eastenders…give me a statistic piece to digest any day!

Mkhitaryan Itching For Number 10 Role

Reports have surfaced that recent acquisition Henrikh Mkhitaryan is unhappy with how he has been deployed during the early stages of his Manchester United career.

The Armenian international has been used sparingly to date, although he did start in Saturday’s derby defeat to Manchester City, where he operated on the wing. His performance drew criticism from Jose Mourinho and he was hauled off at half time alongside Jesse Lingard.

However, it is thought that Mkhitaryan himself has laid the blame back at the feet of Mourinho for fielding him in an unfavoured position, with the former Borussia Dortmund playmaker more comfortable in the number 10 role currently occupied by club captain Wayne Rooney.

It is a viewpoint mirrored by many a fan, with Rooney himself under much scrutiny surrounding his below-par performances. It is thought, hoped even, that, as the seasons drifts on, Mkhitaryan will find himself back in a more natural position with Rooney outside of the starting 11.

The 27-year-old enjoyed his most fruitful season in Germany last term, hitting the back of the net 23 times in all competitions. Perhaps just as impressively, the midfielder chipped in with 26 assists and was thought to be one of Europe’s most wanted men last summer with United eventually winning the race for his signature, paying over £26 million for his services.

How do you feel about Mkhitaryan playing in a number 10 role? Had you hoped to see him flourish out wide? A position we have been lacking for so long?

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Wayne Rooney – He’s Not Really Finished, Is He?

Wayne Rooney, now there’s a man who divides opinion…

On one hand, there is the club captain, the on-field leader who bleeds for the cause, key to the club’s many triumphs of the past 12 years. On the other hand is a player who is a shadow of his former self, a man who claims to have little to prove but is riding on his reputation of days gone by rather than his current form.

It’s a debate which has roared on for some time now, since his below-par performances during the LVG era (let’s face it though, not many have emerged from that with much credit), to his selection in England’s Euro 2016 failure and now to United’s new era, the one which promises so much.

Wayne Rooney celebrates his winner at Liverpool (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Wayne Rooney celebrates his winner at Liverpool (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

The Mourinho era has started with a bang. A convincing 3-1 win over Bournemouth had glimpses of what may be to come but it was a number of comments afterwards which interested me.

“He’s finished” was a popular phrase. “Sell him now” said another. “Worst player on the pitch”…. They kept on coming. And this despite the fact that Rooney scored United’s second of the afternoon, and his 246th for the club putting him only three goals shy of Sir Bobby Charlton’s club goal scoring record.

And then came the most staggering of all, a poll ran on our own Twitter page which enraged me, merely for the result. The question? “If you had to sell one, who would it be? Wayne Rooney or Marouane Fellaini?” Of course, Fellaini came out on top, with 65% of the vote. However, it was the 35% which really made me question our fanbase. The poll attracted 2,384 votes, which meant that 835 of you would rather see a man who has been utterly terrible in his three years at the club in a Manchester United shirt than a man who has scored 246 goals, won five Premier League titles, one Champions League, one World Club Cup, two League Cups and an FA Cup in his 12 years at the club.

Honestly? Really?

One good game against Bournemouth does not merit this kind of reaction. We all know that Fellaini doesn’t belong in a United shirt. He personifies the club’s least successful period of the Premier League era.

Rooney scores penalty to send Sheffield United out of the FA Cup (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Rooney scores penalty to send Sheffield United out of the FA Cup (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

As for Rooney, is he faultless? No. Is he the player he was? No, of course not. However, players adapt with age. LVG trialed Rooney in a midfield role towards the end of last season, as did Roy Hodgson for England in the summer. For me, Rooney looked like this is a role he could adapt do quite swiftly. However, that was soon put to bed when Jose Mourinho stated upon his arrival that he does not see his captain as a number 8 or a number 6, but a number 10. Against Bournemouth, whether you like it or not, it worked. Yes, he misplaced passes, lost control of the ball a little too often for his liking, but it still worked. His mere presence created issues for the opposition. Ok, we all know he wasn’t superb, as stated by Danny Murphy on Match Of The Day, but it showed early promise.

And then it got me thinking about other former captains. Were they subjected to the same level of abuse as they came to the twilight of their careers. Bryan Robson, Roy Keane, Gary Neville, Nemanja Vidic, Ryan Giggs? No, of course they didn’t. Neville and Vidic in particular were nowhere near the type of player they were in their latter years as they were in their peak, but did we shout and scream for the club to sell them? Of course not. In fact, if I remember rightly, there wasn’t many a fan that was too thrilled when Vidic decided to leave the club to join Inter Milan.

Darren Fletcher and Wayne Rooney lift the International Champions Cup (Picture: ibtimes.co.uk)
Darren Fletcher and Wayne Rooney lift the International Champions Cup (Picture: ibtimes.co.uk)

Giggs is a fantastic example. As he reached his early to mid-thirties, can anyone claim he was anywhere near the same player he was in his twenties? The mazy runs were gone, the electric pace had disappeared. What we were left with was still an excellent player, although one of a completely different mould. Paul Scholes was the same.

The fact is, it has become fashionable to criticise Wayne Rooney. In an era where every game can be scrutinised right down to the last little detail, it is easy to find fault within his game, more so than ever before with the amount of cameras, slow motion replays and statistics at our disposal. The same can be said of any player of course, but Rooney seems to be getting the brunt of it.

Rooney scores stunning overhead kick against Man City
Rooney scores stunning overhead kick against Man City

Hence the question after Sunday’s game, to which Rooney responded that he doesn’t have anything to prove to anyone, a comment which angered many. I saw one fan question how Rooney doesn’t have anything to prove, yet Zlatan does. Well, simply put, Zlatan does have something to prove. He’s only just joined the club. Granted, it isn’t going to tarnish his career if he was to fail (which he won’t, I know), but he does have to prove his worth to Manchester United as a club. Rooney, after everything he has achieved at Old Trafford, should be afforded the luxury of not having to prove himself to the fans. We wouldn’t have expected Giggs, or Scholes, or the many more that were pivotal to United’s success over the last 25 years or so to have to prove their worth, so why should we with Wayne?

Let me get this straight, Wayne Rooney could still land a club at the very highest level, and I would thoroughly expect the likes of Chelsea or Manchester City to by vying for his signature if the minority were to get their way. And, on that note, I’ll end on this…just be careful what you wish for…

Ibrahimovic Deal Edges Closer

UPDATE: 26/06/2016 16:56 – It is understood that a deal between club and player has been agreed and that all is left is for Zlatan Ibrahimovic to fly into Manchester and discuss his role in the team with Jose Mourinho. Read more here.

[Original article below]

The deal that would see Swedish legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic join Manchester United appeared to edge closer today as Sky Sports reported that a one year deal had been agreed subject to a medical taking place after Euro 2016.

It has long been thought that a move to United was all but a done deal and the news that personal terms have finally been agreed will come as a relief to incoming boss Jose Mourinho as he takes the first steps towards rebuilding the squad which finished a lowly fifth last season. Though the medical is scheduled to take place following the culmination of Euro 2016 in France, that is seen to be nothing more than a formality.

It is fair to say that the arrival of the charismatic 34-year-old has divided opinion amongst United supporters but securing the signature of one of the most decorated footballers of recent times can be recognised of something of a coup for Mourinho, especially considering the lack of Champions League football on offer next season.

The Swede, fresh from an underwhelming performance in his national side’s 1-1 draw against the Republic of Ireland at Euro 2016, will certainly bolster United’s attacking options with Mourinho believed to have complete faith in the development of Marcus Rashford. Ibrahimovic’s arrival will go a long way in helping Rashford improve his all round game as he lines up against a player that has won a league title at each club he has played for since leaving Malmo in 2001.

Ibrahimovic departs Paris Saint Germain this summer after scoring 156 goals in 180 appearances for the French champions.

Luke Shaw – Can He Be As Good As Before?

Back in September, Luke Shaw suffered an horrific leg break in the Champions League match against PSV Eindhoven, prematurely ending his season which had previously looked so promising. Now, the left back is on the verge of a return which has left many people wondering whether Shaw can possibly return to the levels which we saw in glimpses earlier in the campaign.

The answer we all want to hear is, of course, yes, and there is a very real chance he will. At only 20-years-old, he is young enough to recover to the point that the injury may not affect him again. Shaw has also, under the influence of Louis Van Gaal, ignored the temptation to rush back from his injury, with it initially thought that he could feature in some part in the FA Cup Final against Crystal Palace. However, it is now believed that the former Southampton man will scrap that, along with Euro 2016, to step up his recovery in time for the club’s pre-season tour of China in July.

This should be viewed as a very bold move. The temptation to try to break into England’s Euro 2016 squad must have been great, although he and the club have seemingly looked at the bigger picture. Shaw is, after all, young enough to potentially appear in another seven major tournaments for his country. His time will come.

Patience and rehabilitation are key to making a full recovery in this type of injury, as we saw with the horrific double fracture suffered by Aaron Ramsey for Arsenal in 2010. That injury kept the Welshman out for nine months, similar to Shaw, but the way he was nurtured by Arsenal and the patient approach in dealing with the injury helped Ramsey to make a full recovery.

Ramsey was of a very similar age to Shaw when he suffered his injury in the game against Stoke in 2010, and was eased back into first team action at a rate that slowly saw him become one of the club’s most consistent performers of recent years. Returning in November of 2010, it was thought that it would be better to loan him out to Nottingham Forest, then former club Cardiff City, in an attempt to help him regain that all-important match fitness.

Shaw, on the other hand, has the added luxury of a full pre-season campaign to look forward to, an opportunity that can aid his recovery and pull him back up to a level in which he would expect.

Manchester United fans have been wondering ‘what if?’ when it comes to Luke Shaw. What if he had been fit all season? After an indifferent campaign last season, his form during the opening part of this season earned plaudits from all over the country. He surely would have been a shoe-in at left back for England this summer, and he would have been an ever-present in the Manchester United first team.

Can Luke Shaw reach the heights in which we witnessed during the opening months of the season? On the surface, it looks as thought the recovery process has been handled excellently. Of course, we won’t fully know the answer until we see him back on the football field. However, I personally expect big things of the £30 million man upon his return next season.

Angel Di Maria and Louis Van Gaal Exchange Verbal Blows

Last week, Angel Di Maria opened up on his time with Manchester United, and it didn’t make for pretty watching for Louis Van Gaal. Speaking to the BBC, Di Maria claimed that his ill-fated spell at Manchester United came to an end for an array of reasons.

“I started a game in a position, and then the next one I would be in another.”

“I scored goals playing in one position, and then suddenly the next game I was picked to play in a different position.”

“It’s more that they didn’t let me settle properly than I couldn’t settle. I left a team that was out of the European competition and far away from being champions of the Premier League. I don’t think it was my fault or the fault of my teammates.”

The Argentine then added that he left the club “not only to be happy, but to win things.”

In his weekly press conference, Louis Van Gaal retaliated in a manner similar to that when he verbally attacked Paul Scholes for criticising him and his team.

“I have never seen players who look at themselves, who look to the way they have performed here, and that is always the fault of the manager.”

“So he is one of the players who are in the row of players who have no self-criticism. Unfortunately, it is also my life as a manager. It is always like that.”

The aftermath on social media was pretty critical towards Di Maria. I, however, decided to mull his comments over. Was he, after all, so wrong in what he said? He was played out of position. During his time at Manchester United, he operated as a winger, an attacking midfielder, a number 10, a playmaker and a striker.

His form at United was erratic, of that there can be no mistake. His first couple of months were electric, as he was played in his favoured position, and he thrived. He will remembered for his breathtaking goal against Leicester City, probably more so than the fact Leicester actually won the game 5-3. As the season progressed, injuries and break-ins caused his form to suffer, but he was continually played out of position, Van Gaal using his hefty price tag as an excuse that he has to deliver wherever he plays.

And that is nonsense. Let’s use Rio Ferdinand as an example here. He cost £30 million when he joined United from Leeds in 2002, but would he have realistically have been expected to perform in a position that he was not familiar with? Of course not.

Then there is the Argentine’s comments about moving to France to win trophies. This was a comment that angered many a Manchester United fan. As for me, I totally got what he was saying. If this season has shown us anything, it is that the club are miles away from winning the Premier League. When Manchester United are struggling to make top four, not least challenging for the title, in a league where Leicester City are the frontrunners followed by Tottenham Hotspur, serious questions need to be asked.

“Winning trophies in France doesn’t count” was one Tweet I saw. Again, nonsense. Why doesn’t it? Because it’s France? Because Paris Saint Germain are the only team capable of winning Ligue 1? Let me ask you this, does that same rule apply to Germany? Bayern Munich will this season win their fourth successive Bundesliga title. Same as PSG this year. Are French teams competitive in Europe? As a whole, no. Perhaps they are in Germany, but the domestic competition is almost a non-event, just like in France.

Had he, for example, headed to Greece and joined Olympiakos I could understand the criticism. At Olympiakos he would win endless trophies. Afterall, they have won 17 of the last 19 Greek Super Leagues. However, they are miles away from competing outside of Greece. PSG, in comparison, as a complete squad, ooze class. They have knocked Chelsea, England’s current champions, out of the Champions League in each of the past two seasons. It is completely possible that they will continue that run in the upcoming quarter-final tie against Manchester City. This is a team that contains genuine world class players. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani, Thiago Silva, Lucas Moura, Marco Verratti. The list is almost endless. By comparison, he left a Manchester United side that Marouane Fellaini is almost the first name on the team sheet.

And Di Maria has thrived since. His form at PSG has been what United fans only saw glimpses of. 14 goals and 13 assists. He was a world class player when he joined Old Trafford, and he is a world class player now in Paris.

Angel Di Maria didn’t fail Manchester United. Manchester United failed him. Louis Van Gaal has been quick to try to shift the blame back to the player but it once again exposes his frailties. He took a player who was Man of the Match in the Champions League final as Real Madrid recorded their tenth European title, and turned him into a player who struggled against Yeovil.

It used to be said that no player could recover from leaving Manchester United, that their career was only downhill from there. Di Maria has proved the contrary, and, for me, that is down to Louis Van Gaal and his ego.