Marquee signing

Quality such as Angel Di Maria does not come cheap and Manchester United smashed the British transfer record when they paid GBP59.7 million to acquire the highly-rated Argentina winger. By Ben Cohen.

It has been a shaky start to the season once again for Manchester United and there remain question marks over the defence after the departure of key players but the club have finally made a marquee signing this summer to give the fans hope that the good times can return.

With the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra all leaving Old Trafford and no Champions League football to look forward to, it was vital that United invested wisely this summer and the arrival of Angel di Maria proved that the board are willing to dig deep to attract the quality of players that United have been renowned for down the years.

Quality such as Di Maria does not come cheap and United smashed the British transfer record when they paid GBP59.7 million to acquire the highly-rated Argentina winger.

With many questioning the lack of pace in the United team, new boss Louis van Gaal appears to believe that he has found the solution in Di Maria, stating: “He is a tremendously fast and incisive left-footed player who puts fear into the most accomplished defence.”

The deal itself seems to suit both parties. Real Madrid were looking to ship the player following the arrival of James Rodriguez and United were desperately in need for some improved invention in midfield. Van Gaal and United fans alike are hoping he can be the catalyst required to return them to the top of English football.

Di Maria’s inexorable rise to the top of world football was predicted by many in his native country, Argentina. After being spotted playing for a small local team called Torito, a very young Di Maria was reportedly bought for 35 footballs by Rosario Central.

After progressing through the Rosario youth system, Di Maria made his debut for the first team at the tender age of 17 in 2005.

Six goals in 35 appearances led Portuguese giants Benfica to come calling and in three seasons Di Maria played a huge part in helping Benfica lift the Portuguese Championship title as well as two League Cups.

His final season in Portugal was notably prolific as he racked up eight goals and 11 assists in 34 appearances.

Alongside his success in the club world, Di Maria was quickly rising through the ranks in the Argentina set-up. He enjoyed great success with the under-20 side, winning the 2007 U-20 World Cup in Canada and providing three goals in the process.

A year later he was part of Argentina’s gold medal-winning Olympic squad — alongside a certain Lionel Messi — and scored the winner in the final against Nigeria with a delicate chip over the goalkeeper from the edge of the box.

In the same year, he made his senior international debut against Paraguay.

With his career on the up at both club and international level, Spanish giants Real Madrid stepped in to pay a reported 25 million euros for his services and he hit the ground running at his new club.

His fine start culminated in a crucial performance against bitter rivals Barcelona in the 2010/11 Copa del Rey final. In a tightly fought encounter, Di Maria was able to swing in a perfect cross for Cristiano Ronaldo to score the winning goal in extra-time. The victory gave Jose Mourinho his first trophy as Madrid manager and significantly dented the belief that Barcelona were unbeatable.

Di Maria’s presence continued and a season later, the Argentinian was an integral part of the Madrid side that finally regained the Primera Division title from the grasp of Barcelona.

Di Maria’s form came to a peak in Lisbon where Los Blancos were chasing their long awaited 10th Champions League crown — an obsession nicknamed ‘La Decima’ by the Spanish club.

There could be no better time for Di Maria to produce arguably his most impressive and important performance to date. The winger sparkled all night and somewhat single-handedly carried his team to victory, earning the Man of the Match award after the game. His devastating run and shot that led to Gareth Bale’s crucial goal in injury time is widely considered Di Maria’s best moment in a Madrid shirt.

During his stint in Spain, Di Maria was selected to participate in two World Cups. He played in all five of Argentina’s games as they reached the quarter-finals in South Africa in 2010 and was a key figure in Argentina’s 2014 qualification campaign.

He then scored the winning goal in extra-time against Switzerland to fire Argentina into the quarter-finals but was then forced off with a thigh injury against Belgium and was unable to play any further part in the tournament.

Despite that setback, he was still named on the 10-man shortlist for FIFA’s ‘Golden Ball’ award for the tournament’s best player.

It now remains to be seen whether he can reproduce such form in English football. In his four years at Real Madrid, Di Maria provided the second largest number of assists in La Liga — only bettered by Messi. Overall, he scored 36 goals and notched up 72 assists in 190 appearances. If he can replicate that kind of form in Manchester, United will be a significant step closer to returning to their former glory.

He dated Jorgelina Cardoso for two years before marrying her in July 2011 and they have one child.

FACTFILE PLAYER: Angel Di Maria POSITION: Midfielder DOB: 14/02/1988 COUNTRY: Argentina CLUB: Manchester United INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 52 INTERNATIONAL GOALS: 10

MOMENT TO REMEMBER: His performance against Atletico Madrid in the 2014 Champions League final to help Real Madrid win a 10th European title.

MOMENT TO FORGET: His controversial gesture to grab his crotch having been booed as he was substituted off the pitch against Celta Vigo.

PA Sport