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.