After enduring a frustrating debut season in English football for Manchester United, Angel Di Maria relished the opportunity to return to South American soil and represent his beloved Argentina in the Copa America. A string of positive performances by Di Maria at the Copa America indicated that his confidence that on so many occasions alluded him at Old Trafford last season was slowly returning. Di Maria was at his scintillating best in the semi-final, scoring twice and providing an assist to help Argentina overcome Paraguay 6-1 in Concepcion. However, Di Maria suffered a muscular injury in the final which could rule him out for the entire pre-season campaign and significantly dampen his preparations ahead of next season.
Di Maria’s return to form would have been a timely reminder to Manchester United boss Louis Van Gaal but Di Maria’s latest injury is yet another setback in what has been a rude awakening to life in English football for United’s record signing. The likes of Paris Saint Germain, Bayern Munich and Barcelona have all been linked with the Argentine this summer. Various reports suggest that Van Gaal could be willing to part ways with the mercurial Argentine if United managed to recoup the £60m sum paid to secure his signature last summer.
But for Manchester United fans the thought of an in form Angel Di Maria and latest acquisition Memphis Depay marauding down United’s flanks will quench the United’s faithful taste buds. After being named man of the match in Real Madrid’s Champions League final victory over bitter rivals Atletico Madrid, Di Maria’s ability to shine on the biggest stage could be a huge boost for the Red Devils. If Manchester United manage to overcome a tricky qualifier, a return to the Champions League could galvanize Di Maria and allow him to remind the world of his true credentials on the biggest club stage.
After getting off to a whirlwind start to life in Manchester, the former Real Madrid man’s progress was blighted with injuries. A resurgent Ashley Young restricted Di Maria’s playing time further and after an inexplicable moment of madness in the FA Cup defeat against Arsenal, Di Maria’s confidence continued to wane. Di Maria’s performances were given further scrutiny due to Alexis Sanchez’s unbelievable start to life at the Emirates. Sanchez like Di Maria was a picture boy signing for the Premier League and unlike Di Maria the Chilean went from strength to strength when adapting to the pace and physical rigours of the English game. Unlike Sanchez, foreign players have historically struggled in their first year in English football, adapting to the frantic pace and physicality of the Premier League is tough and the huge differentiation in the English culture can be daunting.
Even though Di Maria’s performances were below par he still managed to conjure up 10 assists in the Barclays Premier League and as a result finish 3rd in the assist charts. On form Di Maria is one of the best in the world and can drive fear into any opponent, Louis Van Gaal needs to find a system which allows Di Maria to impose himself on games and cause opposing defences havoc. If Van Gaal manages to revitalize Angel Di Maria then Manchester United will possess a serial match winner and a player that can inspire others. With Manchester United hell bent on returning amongst the European powerhouses allowing a player such as Angel Di Maria to slip through the net after an indifferent start would prove a costly mistake.