The arrivals of Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao in the summer of 2014 alerted the entire footballing world that Manchester United meant business. Splashing out a club record £59.7 million on bringing Di Maria to Old Trafford from Real Madrid and a reported £6 million loan deal to secure Colombian Falcao’s services, the message coming out of the club was loud and clear. Two such high profile signings suggested that Louis Van Gaal and his side were ready to take the Premier League by storm.
That couldn’t have been further from the truth. In fact, if it hadn’t have been for United’s late run of form towards the back end of last season which saw wins against Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City, they would have found themselves a lot further behind the top three than how it actually ended up.
Di Maria started the season brightly. Showing the form that saw him named man of the match for Real Madrid in the 2014 Champions League Final, he scored sublime goals against QPR and Leicester to become the latest foreign superstar to grace the Premier League. Wearing the iconic number 7 shirt, the Argentine winger looked ready to tear apart opposing defences with his sublime skill, control and technical ability.
Falcao on the other hand was a slightly different story. Returning from a lengthy injury lay off which saw him miss the majority of 2014 including the World Cup in Brazil, the Colombian forward had a point to prove. He was ready to show everyone that he was still a world class striker, the same player who caught the eye of the entire continent whilst at Porto and Atletico Madrid. Falcao showed those signs early on in his United career, although not everybody saw it. A phenomenal assist away at Leicester which saw Robin van Persie score demonstrated the quality of the man, and a well taken goal against Everton at home, his first for the club, indicated that there were many more to come. However it didn’t quite happen for him.
Many blamed his injury for his poor run of form which saw him net only four goals during the whole of last season, a statistic that heavily undermines a player of his quality. Others suggested that he was either past his best, too old to compete at the highest level, or unable to cope with the high intensity and demand of the English game. However, Falcao wasn’t given a good enough chance at United to show what he could do, and it’s as simple as that.
True, he made a creditable 29 appearances last season, which may suggest that he had plenty of opportunities to showcase his talent, but when you consider many of those appearances came from the substitutes bench and included a number of ten minute cameos, you realise that perhaps Falcao was not given the opportunity he deserved.
It was obvious that United would not pay £40 million plus for a 29 year old who failed to make an immediate impact in the Premier League, regardless of the fact that he hardly played a full 90 minutes. Now at Chelsea, the growing concern is that he will find his best form again and show United what they missed out on. However, unless Diego Costa suffers an injury or serves a suspension, it is difficult to see how Falcao will play regularly in the champions’ starting eleven. Unfortunately, the Colombian may find himself in exactly the same situation as he did at Old Trafford. He is not getting any younger, and the longer he finds himself struggling for minutes, the longer it will take him to rediscover his best form.
For many United fans the departure of Angel Di Maria to Paris Saint Germain was the biggest disappointment of the summer. He started his Old Trafford career in sensational style, scoring and assisting left, right and centre. However, it all took a turn for the worst when the Argentine’s Manchester home was raided by burglars at the beginning of February 2015. Di Maria’s form dropped dramatically, and eventually so did his place in the starting line up.
A petty red card against Arsenal in the FA Cup and struggling to perform consistently, Di Maria’s future at United looked uncertain from that moment on. The majority of the footballing world, however, would have expected him to have given it one more season before deciding to move on to pastures new. A man with exceptional ability, at one of the biggest clubs in the world and Britain’s most expensive ever signing, his decision to move on so quickly after arriving in Manchester came as a bitter disappointment to everyone involved with the football club.
No one will know what might have been had Di Maria stuck it out for another season, and many expect him to find his feet quickly in France and show the world why United paid so much money for a player deemed surplus to requirements at Real Madrid. It is a sad end to what could have been an incredible story. We will never truly know how good he could have been in a United shirt, and unfortunately for him, it is likely that he will be remembered as another high profile signing that failed to deliver.
It was a huge shame to see both players depart after only one season at United. They have both been unquestionably two of the best players in Europe during the last 5 years or so, and to see them both struggle to make a significant impact on the Premier League is deeply frustrating. You would expect both men to regain confidence at their new clubs and perhaps become the players that they once were. Unfortunately for United fans, that will happen somewhere else other than Old Trafford.