Angel Di Maria needs to live up to his £60m price tag if Manchester United are to return to the Champions League, says Gary Neville

Di Maria has been criticised for his significant drop in form and Neville believes a number of factors are affecting him

Gary Neville believes Manchester United’s chances of securing a return to the Champions League depends on out-of-form midfielder Angel Di Maria’s ability to live up to his £60m price tag.

Di Maria has been hauled off early in his last two appearances for United having failed to impress, and having joined from Real Madrid in a British record £59.7m transfer last summer, is in danger of becoming the biggest flop in the club’s history.

Manager Louis van Gaal has urged fans to keep patience with Di Maria is he may not settle until next season, but The Independent’s columnist Danny Higginbotham believes the problem lies in Van Gaal’s tactics rather than matters off the pitch as the Dutchman has claimed.

However, former United defender Neville has explained his shock at Di Maria’s dramatic fall from grace, having been part of the Real side that won the Champions League last year and helped take Argentina to the World Cup final in Brazil.

Writing in his column for the Daily Telegraph, Neville said: “I fully expected Di Maria and Luke Shaw to form a devastating partnership down the left flank and, even at close to £60m, I had no thoughts whatsoever that his signing was a risk.

“When he dribbled down the wing at the King Power Stadium before chipping the Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel to score his second goal in three games since arriving from Madrid, the United fan in me was so excited and I was thinking, ‘Here we go!’

 

“It was an example of everything I expected Di Maria to bring to the Premier League - pace, audacity and a moment of magic capable of turning a game.

“But since that day, Di Maria has scored just two more goals - one of them coming against Yeovil in the FA Cup - and he has quite simply looked a shadow of his former self.

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Di Maria goal against Leicester in October looked to get the ball rolling

“He has come to United when he did not want to leave Madrid, has suffered the trauma of a burglary, and started to work for a new manager while playing in a team that is still in a ‘storm’ phase of development.

“All of those are factors that would go some way to explaining why Di Maria has struggled after his bright start, but I feel as though I have a parrot on either shoulder, with one telling me to give the benefit of the doubt because of those reasons while the other is saying that, actually, the time has come for a £60m player to deliver.

“If United are to achieve their aims this season, primarily Champions League qualification, Di Maria is going to have to rid himself of the complexities that have emerged over the past eight months and escape the demons that are playing on his mind.”

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Di Maria was hauled off early against Sunderland and Newcastle

Di Maria’s first chance to show his poor form is just a temporary blip comes in Monday’s crucial FA Cup sixth round clash with Arsenal, with the competition likely to be both clubs only method of possible silverware this season.

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