The past couple of days has seen major developments in Manchester United's chase for Angel Di Maria. The fee is a British record £59.7 million, which many have said is too much. Manchester United have lost their negotiating position after a draw and a win in their first two league games, which has led to teams being aware how great their need for players is.
Di Maria is a proven quality player with a hatful of medals to his name, however he will not be able to secure Champions League for the Red Devils.
The first question is where do you play Di Maria? This is not a compliment to United's players, rather a criticism of their new system and its suitability to their new player. Di Maria is primarily a right midfielder/winger, a position that is not included in United's 5-3-2 formation. Di Maria can be played as a central midfielder but if you're paying a record fee, ideally you'd play the player in their favourite position. It has also been said that he could play wing-back but many are unconvinced of his defensive prowess to play the role, despite his obvious energy levels. So would United revert back to their old 4-4-2 or play Di Maria out of position?
Despite the obvious quality Di Maria has, United's team - namely the defence - is too weak to obtain the top four slot they need. A fully fit back five would probably contain: Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones with Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia as wing backs. Jones and Smalling have largely failed to live up to their early promise with neither even able to figure out their main position.
Both players have also shown that they are uncomfortable with the main centre back role and the responsibility of bringing the ball out from the back. Marcos Rojo looks a good prospect but is inexperienced with the physicality of the league and will need time to get used to playing with his new teammates. Luke Shaw is again a promising player but at his young age mistakes and poor games are expected. Finally, Antonio Valencia is primarily a right winger, although he does have a great engine and gets back well, and he lacks defensive skills such as positioning.
United also lack quality in centre midfield. The £28 million signing of Ander Herrera has gone some way to solving this, however, a more defensive midfielder with a lot of power is needed. Arturo Vidal has been linked heavily but he looks to be staying at Juventus.
United's rivals for the top four slot make it hard to see that they will triumph. Liverpool have lost Suarez and while they likely won't compete for the title they should have more than enough to challenge for top four, despite their new European commitments. Everton could also compete again if they get lucky with injuries, after a strong season last year saw them miss out to Arsenal.
Angel Di Maria is an excellent signing for Manchester United, even if he's somewhat overpriced, but he alone is not enough to secure top four. More signings are needed, particularly in defence. The competition looks too great for United to return to the Champions League at the first time of asking, despite their new man.
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