Newcastle vs Manchester United: Angel Di Maria will take a year to shine, warns Louis van Gaal

The Argentina international has struggled since joining from Real Madrid

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Louis van Gaal has warned Manchester United that it will take a year before they see the best from Angel Di Maria and the club’s other summer signings.

“I think it is the same for all the players I have bought, the first season is always difficult,” said the United manager before Wednesday’s game at Newcastle United. “You can see that in every player we have bought – Shaw, Blind, Herrera, Falcao and Di Maria.

“For me, it is not a big surprise, it was a surprise he adapted as quickly as he did. In Holland, Spain and Germany I had the same experience with players.

“We have to give him time, not just Di Maria but the other players as well. Generally, it takes one year but you can’t give a general answer, it is not scientifically proven.”


The sight of the Premier League’s most expensive footballer being substituted at half-time against Sunderland on Saturday raised the spectre of another Argentine, Juan Sebastian Veron, who also became England’s most expensive footballer when he arrived from Lazio in 2001.

Sir Alex Ferguson admitted he never found a suitable position for Veron at United and there are fears the same may be true of Di Maria. However, some behind the scenes at Old Trafford might wonder whether the £60m fee they paid Real Madrid for Di Maria should have ensured rather swifter results than the winger has thus far delivered.

Angel di Maria tries to bamboozle Jordi Gomez


The problem may be that Van Gaal’s style of football, with its emphasis on slow, built-up possession, does not suit Di Maria. At the Bernabeu the culture was all about swift, incisive counter-attacks, tactics that brought the best from him. Since coming to Old Trafford, Di Maria has gone from the footballer who was unplayable in Düsseldorf when in early September Argentina took a modicum of revenge for their defeat by Germany in the World Cup final, to a man subdued by Burnley and Sunderland.

Saturday’s 2-0 win over Sunderland may have been United’s ninth victory in 10 matches at Old Trafford but it was marred by shows of dissent from the crowd. One move that began with a United corner and finished with Jonny Evans passing back to his own keeper was howled down.

Gary Neville pointed out that if United wanted to play with the kind of panache that was the symbol of the Ferguson years they should have hired someone other than Van Gaal. The former defender turned commentator nevertheless urged the Stretford End to back the Dutchman.

Louis van Gaal


The suspicion is that United are over-regimented and over-coached, a team terrified of taking the risk that might surrender the possession their manager so prizes.

This Van Gaal denied. Asked if the side was afraid of making mistakes, he replied that while individuals might be nervous it was nonsense to say that of a team. “But I agree with the fans that we don’t have to use the goalkeeper so much,” he said. “I have seen moments where we can play at a higher tempo without using the goalkeeper.

“Of course, they want us to attack. It is the English style of playing but I think they have also enjoyed Manchester United playing a possession game so maybe it should be a mix of both.

“You cannot say this is a nervous team because maybe six or seven players are playing arrogantly – and they need to play arrogantly to be good,” Van Gaal added.

“You can say individuals are nervous but I don’t want to talk about individual players. And I always respect the personality of a player – I never try to change it.”