Tag Archives: Angel Di Maria

The Curse of the Number 7 Shirt

There is no escaping the history of the prestigious number 7 shirt when it comes to Manchester United. Best, Robson, Cantona, Beckham, Ronaldo. All have worn the famed shirt and have elevated the number to near legendary status. It is seen as the ultimate accolade when one is handed the illustrious squad number at Old Trafford. However, since Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit in 2009, the number seems to have been hit with a curse as player after player have failed to live up to the hype that comes hand-in-hand with wearing the famed shirt.

I’m too young to remember the genius of George Best and (just) too young to remember Bryan Robson elevating himself to club legend status. Eric Cantona was where it all started for me, and he is the reason I fell in love with the number myself. Seeing Cantona strut around the Old Trafford pitch with his collar up and the number 7 on his back made me dream of following the Frenchman as the next owner of the shirt. Of course, that didn’t happen, with that accolade falling instead to David Beckham. Becks still remains something of a cult hero at Old Trafford and, upon departing the club for Real Madrid, youngster Cristiano Ronaldo was handed the task of filling the boots of the then England captain.

Ronaldo celebrates another goal for Manchester United
Ronaldo became one of the most famous bearers of the number 7 shirt during his time with Manchester United

During his six years at the club, Ronaldo embraced the history of the shirt, beginning his journey as a lightweight, although fast-footed, youngster before leaving the club as the best player on the planet. However, since then, the shirt has almost died a death.

With his prodigal son leaving for Spain, Sir Alex Ferguson produced what was seen at the time as a masterstroke by bringing Michael Owen to the club from recently relegated Newcastle United, and immediately handed him the number 7 shirt.

Michael Owen in action for Manchester United
Michael Owen scored some important goals, but injury hampered his progress at Old Trafford (Picture: michaelowen.com)

Knowing he would forever be chastised by Liverpool fans, Owen remained excited by the prospect of finally winning a Premier League winners medal (something he later achieved) but injury seriously halted his progress at the club. The former England international will forever be remembered for his injury-time winner against Manchester City in the thrilling 4-3 win in 2009. Despite that, Owen managed just 52 games over three seasons before joining Stoke in 2012.

Then, almost inexplicably, Sir Alex Ferguson decided to make his last owner of the number 7 shirt Antonio Valencia in 2012. We’ll skip over this period swiftly as this remains one of the darkest moments in the history of the shirt, before Valencia himself admitted that the expectation that comes hand-in-hand with the shirt was too much to bare, before reverting back to the number 25, a squad number he still holds to this date.

The number remained vacant during the ill-fated David Moyes tenure before Louis Van Gaal made a huge signal of intent upon his arrival by bringing Real Madrid superstar Angel Di Maria to the club for a then club record £59.7 million. The Argentine was immediately handed the number 7 shirt and gave us all reason to believe that he could live up to the huge expectation which comes with the shirt.

Di Maria left Old Trafford after only one season at the club
Di Maria carried a huge expectation when he arrived at the club (Picture: dailymail.co.uk)

It all started so brightly as well. Some sublime early form was capped with a superb goal against Leicester City in 2014 was one of the goals of the season, leading to some sections of the media to claim that the Premier League had a new best player. However, that form was short lived as injuries, break-ins and personal problems led to Di-Maria becoming disillusioned with life at the club. It soon became clear that Van Gaal was unimpressed, and dropped his record signing for much of the remainder of the season before allowing him to join Paris Saint-Germain the following summer.

Then came Memphis Depay, our current 7. Memphis arrived with a swagger as we all took to YouTube to witness his excellent goal scoring abilities for PSV Eindhoven and we all believed that the Dutchman was the man to raise the number 7 shirt from the ashes. There was some early glimpses as Van Gaal believed in his acquisition but this belief has not been shared by current boss Jose Mourinho who has limited the 22-year-old to only four substitute appearances in the Premier League this term, and has confirmed that he can leave the club should the right offer come in.

As things stand, Everton are thought to be the front runners for his signature, although it is believed that the two clubs differ in opinions when it comes to the specifics of the deal.

So what next for the number 7 shirt? Rashford? Martial? How about a new signing? Griezmann? An unlikely return for Ronaldo?

If the past eight years are anything to go by, maybe the club should just retire the number altogether, save face while they can. What are your thoughts? Have your say below.

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.

Angel Di Maria never wanted to join Manchester United

In a recent interview with Spanish newspaper, Marca, Angel Di Maria opens up on his departure from Old Trafford

He has said that his intention was to stay at Real Madrid and that his preferred destination would have been Paris Saint Germain. Financial problems prevented that move and so he ended up at Manchester United.

The former Real Madrid star also said that he did not like the way Louis van Gaal worked.

Explaining why the move to Old Trafford failed, he says that he ended up being left on the bench; that he had problems with people at the club and that his home was robbed.

How do you feel about the Angel Di Maria saga? Do you feel he was weak? A failure? Or like many other world class players, just didn’t like life under Louis van Gaal? Let us know in the comments below.

You can read the full article on the Sky Sports website here.