“Beckham… into Sheringham… and Solskjær has won it!”
What a beautiful phrase…
In two astonishing minutes of football Manchester United turned the Champions’ League final on it’s head, curtesy of two corners from David Beckham’s right boot. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side had reached the promised land and United’s number 7 had played an integral part in bringing the Red Devils back from the dead.
David Beckham is often ridiculed for being more brand than footballing icon. But he will always be remembered by United fans as a truly fabulous player for both his club and country; a cockney lad who loved playing for the team he supported as a kid. Becks scored great goals, many of which came from set pieces, but he also scored some absolute screamers from open play, which are resting somewhere in the sky sports vault. He was hardworking but he was also a team player, his assists alone were on another level and had he spent his whole career at United there is no doubt he would be at the very top of the Premier League all time list.
When United signed Angel Di Maria in the summer of 2014 they appeared to have found a player of the calibre of a David Beckham or a Cristiano Ronaldo, a player who could wear the number 7 shirt with pride and deliver pin point accuracy from the wings.
The Argentinian had enjoyed a wonderful season in La Liga, at Real Madrid he had picked up the man of the match award in the Champions’ League final and in the same season he had helped steer his country to a World Cup Final.
Despite an explosive start to his Barclays’ Premier League campaign United’s £59.7million man has struggled to find his form of late. Since the attempted burglary at his home in January he has been hauled off early in successive matches against Sunderland and Newcastle and he seems to be running low in confidence.
There has been talk of injury and even homes sicknesses. But what ever is happening off the field with Angel he has definitely found it hard to adjust to the tempo and physicality of British football.
During Sunday’s crunch match with Liverpool Di Maria had to settle for the subs bench, coming on as a second half substitute for Ashley Young. The Argentinian struggled to make an impact and was sloppy in possession, but he still managed to pick up an assist after lofting the ball through to Juan Mata for his second goal, showing that he still has exceptional talent despite a lull in confidence.
Reported exclusively in the Independent and speaking after the Liverpool game Louis Van Gaal hinted that certain players (no names mentioned) had not pulled their weight in the second half at Anfield last Sunday.
“In the second-half everything is changing because of [Gerrard’s] red and then we are not anymore playing like a team,” he said.
“We are running with the ball, unnecessary losses of the ball, so that was not so good.”
Louis van Gaal’s comments suggest he was less than happy with his teams’ performance in the second half, accusing his side of poor passing and a lack of concentration. Many journalists have analysed his comments and suggested he was talking about Di Maria, who made some great runs down the flank in the second half but kept cutting inside and losing the ball. If the Argentinian is going to be successful at United he needs to stretch the opposition, knowing when to stick to the flank and when to cut inside, when to pass and when to shoot. Maybe Di Maria feels he should be scoring more goals as the club’s marquee signing, but maybe United haven’t found the right position for him, the right balance.
Whatever it is, Angel Di Maria should stick to what he is good at, running at opposition defences and crossing the ball. That’s what made Beckham and Giggs United legends, assists among the goals. Sometimes strikers get the plaudits but they are only as good as the quality of a cross or pass and Di Maria still has the talent and a wicked left peg, he just needs to believe in himself and keep working because in the long run it will make him a better player.