Having recently commented that he is prepared to be patient in this summer’s transfer market it is rumoured that Louis Van Gaal still has one big summer signing left on the list. Given United’s status it is hardly surprising that they are currently being linked with the whole who’s who in the world of football. However, as United fans wait desperately for some concrete news in the meantime, one can only deal in rumour.
Two of the biggest names being touted around the rumour mill are Real Madrid’s Di Maria, and Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal. These two world class players both had excellent campaigns last term around with Madrid picking up the Copa del Rey and the Champions League and Juve winning their third consecutive Scudetto. However, they are both fundamentally different players and as a result it is worth considering both how they would fit in at United, and who in fact would fit in best.
Born in Rosario, Argentina, Angel Fabien Di Maria started his career with his home town club before moving to Benfica in 2007 and later to Madrid in 2010. After the arrival of Gareth Bale last season many thought Di Maria would be deemed surplus to requires by Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti. Di Maria battled through this, developing his game into a more central role, and ultimately became a key figure head in the team. In fact, it is fair to assume that without the Argentinean’s magnificent performance against Athletico in the Champions League final last term Madrid would never have won la decimal at all. Nevertheless, with the arrival of Columbian star James Rodriguez and World Cup winner Toni Kroos, questions are again being asked over Di Maria’s place in the Real Madrid set up.
Louis Van Gaal himself has spoken of his admiration of the Argentinean winger noting, “At this moment, we have five No. 9s, four No. 10s, but… we don’t have wingers of the highest level like Ronaldo or Di Maria”. High praise indeed it would seem, yet should this be read into, where would Di Maria fit in at United?
First and foremost it will ultimately depend on the formation Van Gaal elects to play. If he does play his favoured 3-5-2 where does this leave Di Maria? In a side reliant on wing backs can the Argentine really be relied upon to get back and help out Phil Jones and co? On the other hand, it is necessary to consider the fact that United now only have two recognised wingers in their squad, namely Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia. The later of these two however is an adaptable player and would work in Van Gaal’s system, the former still has a lot to prove having never regained the form and promise he once showed under Martin O’Neil at Villa.
If the Dutchman did want to re-evaluate his system however, Di Maria would play a vital part in this. United’s old system, particularly in the treble era, relied on width. Giggs would be over lapped by Dennis Irwin on the one side and Beckham by Gary Neville on the other. Early balls in to instinctive strikers such as Yorke and Cole made the regime tick. Nowadays United certainly have the strikers the thrive on this type of play again Rooney and Van Persie being the obvious ones but also Javier Hernandez, if unsold, would thrive on this style of play. Nonetheless, times have changed in football and the 4-4-2 adopted most successfully by United at the turn of the millennium is now considered outdated by some. Van Gaal in particular rarely, if ever, adopts this formation and although Di Maria can also play in a central role, with Mata, Kagawa, Januzaj, and Rooney all able to fill this roll adequately it seems questionable why the Dutchman needs to bring in a winger such as Di Maria, no matter how respectable his talent.
On the other side of the coin is the former Colo-Colo and Bayern Leverkuson central midfielder Arturo Vidal. The Chilean has been a revelation in Serie A in recent seasons picking up the player of the year in 2012/13 and making it into the Serie A team of the year yet again in 2013/14. Despite this however, Vidal has done little to dispel the endless rumours circulating his potential transfer to United and with the transfer window drawing to a close Louis Van Gaal must decide whether or not the Chilean box to box midfielder is the right man for the job.
The superlatives that accompany seemingly every Arturo Vidal performance have been endless in recent seasons. The ‘Warrior’, as he has been nicknamed, is an explosive player with the ability to both attack and defend, and even more importantly, score goals. Arguably with the departure of Paul Scholes at the end of the 2012/13 season the Reds had lost their last midfielder capable of bagging 10 goals a season, and even the peerless Paul Scholes had gone off the goal scoring radar following his shift into a more deep lying role. Vidal therefore would bring a goal threat that has been significantly lacking in United’s midfield of late.
Furthermore, Vidal’s presence on the pitch is also worth contemplation. Recently, the blue half of Manchester have been building their foundations of physically strong players, typified most prominently by Yaya Touré. These players are seldom bullied off the ball, and provide solid defensive cover in addition to the attacking flair that is seemingly a prerequisite for the modern day midfielder. Vidal himself encompasses this mould and given the fact that he would also certainly fit into Van Gaal’s favoured 3-5-2 formation, having played in this system both under Massimiliano Allegri at Juventus and Jorge Sampaoli with the national side, the option of signing Arturo Vidal is altogether an appealing one.
However, Vidal’s injury concerns remain the main consideration to the new man in charge at Old Trafford. After sustaining a knee injury toward the close of the last campaign the Chilean underwent knee surgery in a rush to get fit for the World Cup in Brazil. Whilst able to play in Brazil, and play well, Vidal was not up to this prolific best and regularly had to retire early in matches due to precautions surrounding his injury. It is these worries that Van Gaal and the United board will have to contemplate fully before undertaking the signing of Arturo Vidal. Whilst he may be the better fit for United in comparison to Di Maria United do not want another Owen Hargreaves situation on their hands!
The comparison of Di Maria and Vidal is riddled with difficulties from the outset. Both are technically outstanding players and would more than likely walk into most teams across Europe. However, both are fundamentally different players and in this instance it is this difference, and ultimately United’s needs, that need to be taken into consideration above all. If Vidal’s injury concerns prove to be nothing more than that the Chilean would be the logical choice over Di Maria, finally representing the belated successor to Roy Keane and Paul Scholes at the Theatre of Dreams.