The news from France this morning is that Paris Saint-Germain has either called “time” or dropped out of the race altogether to sign Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid.
PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi was quoted earlier today as saying: “For Di Maria, it’s true we have discussed him with [Florentino Perez]. But he was too expensive. We stopped the discussions.”
His statement was either a negotiating ploy or a signal to other top European clubs to get on the phone to Madrid.
The English press have instantly placed Manchester United in pole position to sign the talented Argentinian winger from the reigning European champions.
But do Louis van Gaal and Manchester United need Angel Di Maria?
Twitter went into overload in July after Manchester United executive chairman Ed Woodward gave an interview with MUTV proclaiming there was “no fixed budget” for incoming transfers and the club had “funds available” for big name players.
He went on to say: “Louis is the boss and is assessing what’s going on but we have been in dialogue for some time about targets so there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes … we’re continuing to move forward on some of those targets … so watch this space.”
Some United fans began making their lists of potential arrivals at Old Trafford with Juventus’ Arturo Vidal, Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels and Real Madrid’s Angel Di Maria topping the majority of the ‘most wanted’ lists.
But following five preseason matches, United’s manager has been contemplating leaving the roster as it is. The Dutch boss has been very public about the fact that he has been very impressed with what he has seen from the squad and he says he may not need any reinforcements.
Prior to United’s match against Real Madrid in Michigan, Van Gaal stated: “We still have a month to go (before the transfer window shuts) and we are winning. Maybe we don’t need other players.”
“First I want to see the players who I have and give them an honest chance.”
Two players who have been in United fans’ cross hairs for the past few years have been Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia.
Over the past few years, both players have struggled with inconsistency and injuries while playing for Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes. But despite their difficulties on the pitch, both United bosses included them on the team sheet when each were healthy.
The reason being, though, is that while both players have their limitations, they are also good teammates who understand their roles and responsibilities on the pitch. Their ability to perform a job and execute what the manager wants has made them valuable to the club.
Both Young and Valencia have been traditional wing players, but are now being asked to play wing-back in Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 formation. And after facing off against AS Roma, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Liverpool, both players have met or exceeded many expectations.
Luke Shaw and Rafael will also competing for a wing-back positions. Youth team players Reece James, Michael Keane and Tyler Blackett have also been used there.
Adnan Januzaj might be asked to convert from a traditional winger to a wing-back (since the number 10 role will be fought between Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa).
So do Manchester United need Angel Di Maria? Another winger?
The argument can be made that Di Maria is a world class talent, and there is no questioning that. The player was one of the standout performers of the World Cup before his injury and helped lead Real Madrid to the Copa del Rey and Champions League titles last season.
But he did so as a winger. And right now in Louis van Gaal’s system, there is no need for a winger.
Where United need reinforcements are in the center of the pitch and defense.
Right now, Darren Fletcher is their most veteran central midfielder with Michael Carrick sidelined with an injury. Both of these players have spent time away from the first team over the past few seasons with injury and illness. So it would help if United could add another midfielder.
And although their defense was surprisingly efficient during the US tour, there were some issues at times and United are lacking options in their back-three of Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans and Phil Jones.
Blackett and Michael Keane played well during the first five games, but even Van Gaal admitted that they may not be ready for the day-to-day grind of first team football.
It’s apparent that strengthening the midfield and defense should be United’s priority. It’s safe to assume that the wing is not an area the club need to address.
Van Gaal is unlike most managers in that he won’t sign a big name player, just to sign a big name player.
He sees the value of an individual player to the squad, whether they are an 18-year-old newbie or a thirty-something international. The Dutch manager just wants players who can perform and think when they’re call to the task.
So, does Manchester United need Angel Di Maria?
The answer is: “no.”