As Angel Di María is busy passing his medical and putting pen to paper at United this afternoon, fans across the globe could be forgiven for getting a bit over-excited at the prospect of United signing a big-name star.
After all, it doesn’t happen all that often. Manchester United’s transfer policy of the Sir Alex Ferguson era had often been to buy stars while they’re young and still at the ‘promising’ stage, then develop them into global superstars. We’ve seen that with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, to name but a few in the last decade.
But this signing, and Juan Mata’s before it, tastes a little different. Not only are United splashing the cash (at last! some of you will exclaim) but they’re signing a genuine world star – in his prime. United under Sir Alex would never have paid a premium for players – the manager himself would rely on his genius to guide the players he has at his disposal to be the best they can be. However that’s no longer something United can afford to do.
It’ll take time for Louis Van Gaal. Not just to mould the squad into the shape he wants it to be, but to get the players in he wants, as well as get rid of the players he doesn’t. And it’ll also take time for United to adjust to this new ‘way of life’.
It must be said that United aren’t used to paying over the odds for players. After all, Di María’s signing will ecplipse that of Mata’s back in January – but more to the point, United will now have broken their transfer record twice in a few months.
No-one really cares that much though. Sure, £59.7m is a lot of money – but it’s the price United are paying for not addressing problems in their squad which surfaced up to five years ago. It’s hard to argue that United have played ‘exciting’ football for years – there have undoubtedly been flashes of the free-flowing football which personified the club during Ronaldo’s time at Old Trafford – but nothing to really earmark United as an ‘exciting’ team.
United haven’t been entertaining since the departure of their last real ‘number seven’ in 2009; and it’s about time they signed a player of a similar ilk.
Angel Di María is that kind of player. There’s no way of knowing if he’ll be an instant hit or just more expensive icing on top of an increasingly crumbly cake – but it’s promising to at least see United making an effort to sign top players.
And unlike Juan Mata before him, United’s new record signing will not be another square peg in a round hole. Versatility seems to be one of Louis Van Gaal’s favourite attributes in a player, and it’s certainly something Di María will bring. He can play as a wing back or an out-and-out winger in a 3-5-2 formation or a 4-4-2. In a 4-3-3 he can play in either the midfield trio or anywhere across the front three. Hell, he can even play at left-back (and do a better job than Ashley Young).
As Gary Neville pointed out recently, he’ll also bring the best out of Juan Mata. United have lacked pace significantly recently, and Mata will be better for having a player willing to run beyond him, making the runs or even supplying the Spaniard with the ball himself. Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie are largely more measured players, but Angel Di María will add a new dimension to United’s attack.
He doesn’t mind doing the dirty work either, and putting in tackles. Not the type to go careering into opponents, but the type of player a dominant midfielder loathes – someone who corners like a fly and won’t leave you alone until he’s won the ball from you.
Di María’s quality should adhere him to the Old Trafford faithful, but if that’s not enough, an incredible work ethic and boundless energy will, without doubt, help too.
United fans should watch this space and feel like kids before Christmas.