Manchester United may have invested in some world class attacking talent but their leaky defence and dodgy system was still put to the sword against newly promoted Leicester City at the weekend. The Foxes twice came back from two goals down to take the win 5-3 with two late goals, leaving Manchester United coach Louis van Gaal with just one victory in the Manchester United hot-seat in his first five games. Nobody anywhere would have imagined the comeback even football betting experts would not have envisaged this outcome!
Despite Manchester United’s latest laughable defensive botch, Di Maria played very well and was at the heart of most of United’s good play. The former Real Madrid man scored the second goal for the Manchester side with a delightful chip after a flowing move which involved Wayne Rooney – and Di Maria himself – combining well. The Argentine midfielder also recorded an assist on the day with Ander Herrera turning in a weak Di Maria shot with a deft backheel, which should have seen Manchester United claim the points with the score at 3-1.
Perhaps a good indication of how imposing Di Maria can be is the fact that van Gaal took the midfielder off with the scores balanced at 3-3 and within 15 minutes, United had fallen 5-3 behind thanks to some excellent counter attacking football from the newly promoted side. This substitution seemed to lift Leicester, and with the scores at 3-3, it can be seen as a truly awful decision with Di Maria capable of scoring from anywhere – a piece of magic like this could have won the game for United, instead they lost comfortably with Tyler Blackett sent off for their troubles.
Busy in the Final Third
Di Maria completed United’s third highest total of final third passes against Leicester behind only Ander Herrara (19/25) and Wayne Rooney (21/26), which shows how busy he was for United – the Argentine is above players of note such as Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie in this department. These three players were integral to forcing Leicester back during the game and the removal of Di Maria from the match may have allowed Leicester to push slightly further up the field with the confidence of knowing they probably wouldn’t be punished for it.
These attacking third passes (above) weren’t just for show either with Di Maria creating three chances for his teammates (four chances if you include the shot that was turned in by Ander Herrara for United’s third goal). Di Maria created the second highest amount of chances on the day with only Leicester’s Jamie Vardy (Sky Sports’ Man of the Match incidentally) creating more (five chances, one assist). These figures show how much of a genuine threat Di Maria was on the day and that van Gaal was wrong to substitute him – perhaps Leicester were close to tiring, for example, and United could have benefited with 15 minutes more of Di Maria offence.
The Main Man
Not only was Di Maria adept at passing during the game but he was also the main dribbler in the match with seven attempted take-ons resulting in three completed forays into the Leicester half. Di Maria’s intent was clear and he is definitely the type of player that every team should have at least one of. He can beat a man and open up defences with one piece of skill although United supporters might wish to see this ability in a more central area (like Raheem Sterling for Liverpool) because this would mean that one successful take-on could result in the Premier League’s best player dribbling straight at the opposition’s centre-backs, rather than their full-backs as was the case against Leicester as all of Di Maria’s take-ons were in the wide left areas of the field. This would create many more chances for United – so, well done Angel but let’s get these offensive plays more central.
All in all, it was a pretty good day at the office for Di Maria – in an individual sense – but quite the opposite in terms of the all important team – in fact, it was pretty disastrous. Di Maria’s performance is definitely the main positive from this humbling defeat but United must learn to close off games by being clever on the ball and defending with more composure. There were also some positives from Radamel Falcao – including the sumptuous turn and cross for van Persie’s headed goal but United supporters will hope that Di Maria can continue in this vein of form which could be enough to pull them up the table.