It might be silly season, but one of the more credible rumours out there at the minute is that of Manchester United getting rid of Angel Di Maria, with Paris Saint Germain eyeing the player up once more.
According to the majority of the press, the winger is the number one target for the French side, who would be willing to match the fee United paid to bring him to the club – and while that might sound tempting given the cash injection it would provide United, not to mention Di Maria’s lack of form at times last season, United simply have to keep the player.
Handing Di Maria a second season to prove himself and help the club en-route to silverware is the smart thing to do and here are three major reasons why.
Let’s be honest, who are they going to replace him with?
Are there many wingers out there who are better than Di Maria? The British press might try and tell you a swap deal for Gareth Bale would be title winning dream land for Louis van Gaal, but the Spanish press and Real Madrid fans have made it clear – more than once – that they would trade the two players in a heartbeat.
Di Maria is a top draw player, and yes, he might have gone off the boil because of various issues including a home invasion, which let’s face it, is going to shake you up a bit, but if the likes of Carlos Tevez moan about being in England because of the weather, can you imagine what Di Maria and his family must think of being in a house that was hit up by armed robbers?
The player was undeniably good in the first half of the season, but declined dramatically at times following the Christmas fixtures – but don’t forget he is also used to a winter break.
PSG might be willing to pay United a fee so large it does not leave them out of pocket considering what they shelled out for Di Maria this time last year, but United are hardly desperate for money.
They are desperate for tricky, creative players on the wing – and Ashley Young does not apply here, no matter how lucky he gets from a bird sh*tting in his mouth.
United need forwards – and a swap deal with Cavani has been mooted, but how is a forward going to score without someone to give him the ball?
Second season syndrome is a real thing
Players do improve in their second season in the Premier League. That is a fact. Well, as close to one as you’re going to get in football, when even stats are debated heatedly.
In their second season, players are often increasingly used to the physical nature of the league and able to withstand that – which for Di Maria, will be huge. The player goes down like a sack of potatoes, and probably always will, at times looking like you would have to find him in intensive care if you wanted to get an autograph after the match, but he can be solid on the ball.
In the Liga, the referees will blow for foul after foul on creative players, especially those who play for Real Madrid or Barcelona, with the protection offered by officials incomparable to that of the Premier League. That is why players who come to England get such a shock when they’re booted five feet into the air at the Brittania and play is waved on.
Just consider how many free kicks Eden Hazard would receive in Spain.
United fans will know the perils of writing a player off too early – had Fergie listened to the lynch mob and done that with David De Gea during his first couple of years in England, imagine where the club would be now. Probably back in the land of Roy Carroll scooping the ball out of the back of his net and hoping the officials think it’s that game against Spurs again.
Time might not be something football fans are used to giving – let alone patience, but United need to show that to Di Maria now, or they could end up regretting it.
You don’t know what you’ve got until it has gone
There is no denying United fans have only seen glimpses of the best of Di Maria so far, but they do not want to become like Real Madrid. Firstly because they would love Fergie to sell them a virus, let alone anything else, and secondly, because no one likes a fan base who don’t know what they’ve got until it has gone.
Real Madrid fans liked Di Maria, much like they liked Mesut Ozil, but they never really made the player feel unconditionally loved or protected like some of his teammates – who were invariably Spanish and also protected by the press.
They only realised what they had when he left the club and the players expressed their displeasure, which is the ultimate accolade, and now seem to prefer spending time taking a key to Gareth Bale’s car, booing the Welshman and lamenting the fact Di Maria was sold instead of enjoying watching one of the best teams around.
In Real Madrid’s cup double winning season, Di Maria was pivotal. La Decima would not be sitting in the trophy cabinet had it not been for the winger. Yes, Sergio Ramos might be known as Heroe de la Decima, but Di Maria was as important if not more so. The Argentine won the Man of the Match award following that game, and ironically, was handed the award by none other than Alex Ferguson.
The same was the case during Real Madrid’s last Primera title win – their 32nd – under Jose Mourinho, who knew how good the Argentine winger could be, with Di Maria spellbinding in the second half of that season.
For those who have claimed Di Maria is not able to produce anymore – if he ever did at all – they only need look at the Copa America, where the winger was brilliant for his national side at times, and showed that when his head is in the game, he is world class.
For now, United need to stick by Di Maria and keep him at the club – but more than that, as Gary Neville claimed, Di Maria needs to refuse all offers of an exit and prove that he can cut it in the Premier League, which for many, is still the litmus test and the toughest league in the world to make it in.