The fact that Angel Di Maria was on sale in the recent transfer window was quite apparent. His eventual destination though was not. PSG looked like they would sign the Argentine International but it was Manchester United who’ve secured his services. He made his debut as a central midfielder against Burnley and Vatsal Dani tells us where else he could be deployed.
The month of August was quite momentous for everyone associated with Manchester United. The amount of business done by them in the last few days of the transfer window is simply mind boggling.
Of all their purchases one has stood out the most. No it’s not deadline day coup of Radamel Falcao but the signing of a wily wizard from Argentina for a British record transfer fee who goes by the name of Angel Di Maria. A world class player and in my opinion probably the third best winger in the world after Bayern’s ‘Rob-Bery’ duo.
A right dose of quality that this Manchester United squad was yearning for quite a long time. Now arises a question that has baffled pundits and fans alike all over the world. Where will the Iron Tulip will fit him in? He is not a panic buy as Louis van Gaal would not have paid £59.7m for him just for the sake of it. Here are 5 possible positions he can possibly slot into.
Central role in 3-4-1-2 formation
This position looks more outlandish considering it’s tactical implications. Here he will be deployed as a creative central midfielder playing alongside Daley Blind/Michael Carrick/Ander Herrera with Juan Mata in the hole behind the two strikers. This will prevent Di Maria from expressing himself as he will have to fulfill his defensive duties as well. He is known for his workman like attitude so it won’t be a shock to see him in this role. It would be similar to what we saw at Turf Moor against Burnley. Although this role is not favorable for the player to exhibit his true potential, it can be used in order to accommodate all the attacking options available at Old Trafford.
As a number 10 in 3-4-1-2 formation
A more realistic option as it will have two men shielding back three. This will allow him to play with more freedom as defending won’t be his primary concern. A solid midfield duo of Daley Blind/Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera providing him with the license to bomb forward and also give the front-men the freedom to wreak havoc. It is to be understood that this sort of role is what catapulted the Argentine to elite status. It is no secret that he was deployed as a CAM in 4-1-3-2 formation during his Benfica days. Even during his Real Madrid days under Carlo Ancelotti he had more of a central role. The only drawback of deploying him as a no 10 is that it would mean the sidelining of Juan Mata. It hardly makes any sense to bench one of the best attacking midfielders in the world to accommodate someone a bit out of position.
Wingback in 3-5-2 formation
The most unlikely of all the positions where we can hope to see the 26 year-old. No it’s not about him being unfit for the role. It’s more about wasting him in that position. There might be some murmurs that this is a wide position, a perfect fit for him and so on and so forth. A wing-back isn’t an out and out attacker but a defender who can contribute heavily in attack. No one would like to waste his most potent attacker defending to sweep out opponent’s attacks. Although this would allow United to accommodate all their top rate attackers in that starting lineup, it’s still a no go in my opinion. Only in situations of high defensive injury crisis, can we unwillingly hope to see him there.
Winger in 4-3-3 formation
If I can sum it up in one word it would be ‘Perfect’. A position which is tailor made for him to thrive. This will allow the former Benfica man to express himself with full freedom. If anyone has any doubts about him or wants a demonstration of his abilities on the wing, they must watch him against Germany in the international friendly a few days ago. The only glitch here is the formation. It remains to be seen whether Louis van Gaal is ready to forego his new found love for back 3. He is known to be tactically flexible and all United fans will hope that he displays his flexibility sooner rather than later. As this would lead to the trio of Rooney Falcao/RvP Di Maria in attack which on paper is one of the most lethal attacks in world football. Bettered only by Robben Lewandowski Ribery by a slim margin.
There is one other possible position like the Robben role in 3-5-2 as a wide forward but that’s only possible if all of United’s forwards are on the physio’s table or on a long vacation or in a tense and tactical Champions League fixture in future.
We all know where the Angel really fits in amongst the Devils. But with his versatility and oodles of class he can fit seamlessly almost anywhere in the attacking department not only making him the Joker in the pack but also ensuring that the gaffer has to gobble up quite a few aspirins.
Written by Vatsal Dani.
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