The news that Manchester United have finalised a £60 million deal for Argentine winger Di Maria may appease the quench for a big name signing, but in truth does little to solve the club’s real weaknesses.
The move underlines the chronic lack of vision emanating from Old Trafford’s boardroom. New manager Louis Van Gaal has already stated the squad is “unbalanced”, overstocked in attack and threadbare defensively. Under the Dutchman’s new 3-5-2 revolution, rearguard strength is needed more than ever.
Despite having months to fill the gaping holes left by Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic, United began the season fielding two untested youngsters in Tyler Blackett and Jesse Lingard. Ashley Young, converted from winger to wing-back in desperation, found himself exposed defensively – helped little by Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, both floundering for confidence.
A make-shift backline, in a make-shift squad unfit for the manager’s vision.
Last week’s draw at Sunderland highlighted a second failing. Central midfield devoid of any driving impetus. A move for Real Madrid’s holding midfield want-away, German powerhouse Sami Khedira, should have beeen more pressing than Di Maria.
Last night’s humiliating 4 – 0 defeat to MK Dons suggests these problems run deep into the reserve and youth squads. As he watched the team gift goals to the opposition with sloppy passing and technical ineptitude, it’s no wonder Van Gaal said he was “unsurprised” at the loss.
The manager will greet Di Maria knowing he has a great player, but far from a great team. Until the underlying issues are dealt with twinkle toes is likely to suffer the same fate as other recent recruits. The club have now spent £213.7m on eight transfers since the start of last year – four are yet to make their debut for the club, the others combining to make only 35 starts in all competitions and score only seven goals.
Unless further signings are made to provide defensive steel, Manchester United could find itself a former giant, ruing the time they had money, but didn’t know what to do with it.