Football

Angel di Maria is being grossly misused at Manchester United

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Fair play to Louis van Gaal. Any coach that has the ability to turn one of the world's best players into a run-of-the-mill Premier League plodder possesses something quite spectacular in their managerial make-up.

But, that's exactly what the Manchester United boss has managed to do with Angel di Maria, who looks a shadow of his former self that set tongues wagging during four successful years at Real Madrid.

The Argentine playmaker used to be regarded as one of the greatest assist kings on the planet, regularly providing Cristiano Ronaldo with plenty of service while at the Santiago Bernabeu.

When the Red Devils signed Di Maria for £59.7 million back in the summer, Ronaldo was quick to air his disappointment that he'd no longer be able to link up with the South American sensation in Spain.

La Liga's loss was supposed to be the Premier League's gain, but thanks to Van Gaal's stubbornly pragmatic approach fans are yet to see the best of the British transfer record buy, who continues to look constrained in the current Manchester United system.

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Against Burnley last night, Di Maria lost possession 28 times and created just one chance, meaning he's now conjured only six goalscoring opportunities in nearly eight hours of football.

The fact some pundits actually praised his contribution in Wednesday's 3-1 victory over Sean Dyche's side tells you everything you need to know about how far the 26-year-old has fallen in the space of six months.

After being brought down by Scott Arfield to win Manchester United a late second-half penalty - which was coolly converted by Robin van Persie - Di Maria picked up (in the eyes of Squawka at least) his seventh league assist of the season, which is at least three more than any of his team-mates at Old Trafford.

However, don't let that statistic fool you into thinking that the former Galactico has provided any kind of return on the obscene amount of money forked out by the under-performing Premier League giants in what turned out to be a radical £150 million summer splurge by Van Gaal.

In fact, there's been very little evidence to suggest that any of his six signings have been a resounding success, with Radamel Falcao, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind and Ander Herrera all experiencing their own problems for varying reasons.

Before last night's clash against the Clarets, Di Maria's miserly return in 2015 made for alarming reading, and despite playing a decisive role in the build-up to Van Persie's spot-kick he still managed to give the ball away with almost 30 per cent of his passes.

The worrying lack of consistency he's showed must surely be starting to play on the minds of Red Devils fans that are already growing increasingly aggravated by the collectively underwhelming performances that continue to be served up by Van Gaal's team.

They might have lost only one of their last 15 top-flight games and have successfully regained third place in the Premier League table, but the lack of fluency and free-flowing attack-minded football that had become the norm during Sir Alex Ferguson's tenure is now just a distant memory in this disappointing new era.

One of the most obvious reasons why the existing personnel are struggling is Van Gaal's tendency to play numerous players out of position. Wayne Rooney has been deployed in central midfield and Di Maria has been asked to play more centrally in attack, positions that are not suited to either of their strongest attributes.

Di Maria's swift decline epitomises the negative impact of the Dutchman's gross misuse of the top talent at the Theatre of Dreams. Manchester United fans thought they had it bad under David Moyes, but in hindsight they probably wish they'd given him more time to turn things around, because this new direction under Van Gaal is not the right way forward either.

Manchester United fans: Have you been pleased with Angel di Maria's contribution so far this season? If not, what do you think his main problem has been? Share your thoughts in the comment box below...

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Topics:
Football
Premier League
Manchester United
Louis van Gaal

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