Monday, 27 July 2015

OF SERGIO, ANGEL & PSG

Manchester United have secured the signing of Sergio Romero on a free transfer
Manchester United overnight completed their fifth summer signing with the addition of Argentina International goalkeeper Sergio Romero. Having effectively sacked Victor Valdez over the microphone in a press conference across the pond, there was an even bigger hole in the United goal to contend with owing to the imminent departure of David De Gea to Real Madrid. Whilst the Spaniard could yet see out the remainder of his contract at United next season, Romero would still be required as ready cover in a position that could once again become a revolving door after the security of tenure of Edwin van der Sar.

The biggest news surrounding the club however is the expected departure of Angel Di Maria to Paris Saint Germain. A reading from both parties, especially from Laurent Blanc, in this particular saga suggests that there is likely to be one conclusion and it involves the premier league's record signing jumping ship and crossing the channel to France.

Di Maria struggled with the physicality of the premier league
It is quietly understood that Angel Di Maria favoured a move to Paris before FFP constraints made Old Trafford the only viable destination. Having had those constraints relieved, the Paris based club have made Angel their marquee summer target and looked to exploit his unsettled life in Manchester to prize him away after just one season. Perhaps the writing was on the wall when Louis van Gaal started entertaining questions about the Argentina winger as early as January this year.

As far as Manchester United are concerned, Di Maria was never going to be up for sale unless he expressly asked to. It's increasingly the case that the player has made such a request to the club. More crucially is the feeling that perhaps Louis van Gaal is a tad relieved that his most valuable signing of his managerial career has a readily available suitor.

The hard facts are that despite an impressive output of 10 assists over an injury-laden season, Di Maria has struggled to fit into the mould that Louis van Gaal envisaged him in when he sanctioned the purchase. It's fair to say that Angel shone brightest at United during the early 'spectacular football-arse twitching' days when United were horribly exposed for a lack of defensive cover but enthralled with some exhilarating attacking stuff! Since then, the manager has gone about working out various formations and systems to negate the absence of reliable defensive cover and to get all his star players in the team. It's a conundrum that failed to produce anything that suited the former Real Madrid winger. He was tried on both wings, in a central wide left, up top but each new trial seemed to expose the winger more to the physicality of the Premier League. Off the pitch, that his home was broken into whilst he was having dinner with his family at home did not help. Indeed, when the philosophy finally bore fruits for the club towards the end of the season, it was achieved largely without the presence of the winger in the team.

The premier league is admittedly a tough choice of employment for a creative wide man. Cristiano Ronaldo had his fair share of cuts and bruises sustained in England before he departed, but he rose to it and came out a better player. Eden Hazard, arguably the best in his position in the league, often leaves football matches with blood cuts visible on his socks. In England, the protection you get from the referees is relative to how much you have convinced them that you in fact need it.

Di Maria after being sent off against Arsenal in the FA Cup
For Di Maria and van Gaal, it appears to be a solution of convenience has presented itself. United feel that they are entitled to a substantial part of the £59.7m  that they paid Real Madrid for him. PSG appear to be ready to pay the 'substantial fee'. The obligation to replace ADM obviously creates another transfer situation unresolved around the club but you would imagine van Gaal might be pleased to trade something expensive that doesn't work for him for something cheaper that works.




Certainly it was the case during last season when Ashley Young beat Di Maria for fitness and understanding of what his manager wanted from him. The Englishman remains miles below the level of a world class winger but he has thrived on the left hand side and helped make it United's go-to wing for attack.

Make no mistake though, Angel Di Maria is among the elite players in world football and Zlatan Ibrahimovic was not far off the mark when he said Angel could help PSG win the Champions League. He is that good when he fits in. Whereas he could have forced the issue and thrived in the premier league, the heart seems not to have been in it, and quite frankly, few things work for us in absence of commitment from the heart.

Wayne Rooney will lead United against PSG on Wednesday
Ironically, it is PSG that provide the opposition for United in their last game on tour before the season kick-off. Having racked up three wins out of three, United will defend their International Champions Trophy if they get the better of the Ligue 1 side in Chicago on Wednesday night (local).

I do feel though that the club has not built up the fitness levels of the side over 90 minutes. The Barcelona tie saw some players play 60 minutes for the first time on tour and yet at the hour mark, it appeared that a lot of them had grown leggy. Therefore if there is one thing I hope United can take from the PSG game is to have a few seniors play the full game and see how they can cope over the 90 minutes because it's just this then Spurs in a game we shall only be allowed a trio of substitutions.

Having ended the tour with no new outfield players added to the side that departed Manchester, our season start is seemingly going to be defined with the resources we have now. The chance to make do with this lot before then has come and will soon be gone. If Daley Blind at centre-back is part of how this will work then blimey! We probably need the start of the season to be pushed a couple of weeks further. The managerial staff seem to comfortable with the situation so maybe I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

Cheers though!

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