Paying £60m odd to sign a ‘forward’ from Real Madrid with obvious class but debate surrounding his best position – this sounds like déjà vu for fans of Manchester United.
Despite an initial burst of goals and assists, Angel Di Maria’s season-long stay at Old Trafford was not pretty viewing.
It quickly became clear that Louis van Gaal, freshly appointed to the United hotseat before the 2014/15 campaign kicked off, had no clearly defined role in mind for the Argentine, whose British Record transfer he may not even have sanctioned.
Di Maria’s Man Utd misery
Having become bewildered about his function in the team thanks to Van Gaal’s scattergun approach to his deployment, Di Maria’s confidence vanished quicker than free champagne at a wedding.
The Argentine schemer looked a shadow of the player who had starred at the 2014 World Cup.
Hey presto, the next summer he was shipped off to Paris St-Germain for £10m less and labelled the biggest per-pound-sterling United flop of all time.
James Rodriguez could make same move
In this context, news that Manchester United (whether that be the continuously job-threatened LVG, his puppet masters in the boardroom, or even Jose Mourinho) are now chasing Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez for a tad more than Di Maria cost, is slightly baffling.
As in Di Maria’s case, the Colombian’s stock rose starkly after his exploits in Brazil. But whereas the former opted to switch between big clubs with a greater share of the limelight in mind, Rodriguez was tempted to the star-saturated Bernabeu.
A settling-in season containing 17 goals in 46 appearances was commendable enough, though trees have remained firmly rooted over an enormously disappointing second campaign in the famous white.
Like poor old Di Maria at Old Trafford, 24-year-old Rodriguez’s versatility has proved a barrier to cementing a role in either Rafael Benitez’s line-up or more condemningly, Zinedine Zidane’s first XI.
James is best as a number 10 (no one deploys classic 10s anymore)
Playing at his influential best for Colombia, James (as he prefers to be known) looked a classic number 10, a position not utilised in the same sense at Madrid, or indeed United, in the era of 4-3-3.
Subsequently he’s been shunted about the front three, left and right, or even asked to play as a central midfielder.
The cultured left footer has only turned out 25 times for the La Liga giants this term, scoring seven and even if he was granted a fresh start at Old Trafford, he may run into the same troubles.
Master plan in place?
You only have to look at Juan Mata’s transient role in LVG’s team, when, to the hordes of irritated onlookers, the diminutive Spaniard is so much more effective as a central playmaker.
Perhaps a Mourinho, or A Other, has a masterplan in place for the latest misused maestro in the headlines, but for many United fans clinging desperately to an upturn in fortunes next season, this prospective transfer could further infuriate instead.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.