When Manchester Untied announced the signing of Ángel Di María from Real Madrid for a British transfer record of £59.7 million in the summer of 2014, most knowledgeable observers of the sport agreed that it was an ambitious and progressive piece of business.
With the Red Devils struggling after the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and the subsequent flunk under David Moyes, the Argentine’s capture was a statement of intent by one of the world’s biggest clubs, looking to get back to the big time.
Most agreed that Di María’s price tag was perhaps too much and that Madrid had tapped into United’s need for significant transfers, but there was not many doubting that the South American attacker had all the necessary qualities to be a sensation at Old Trafford.
However, despite the 27-year-old’s track record, reputation in the game and undoubted ability, Di María’s time in Manchester will be remembered as a failed experiment.
After a solitary season in the English game and with the player’s confidence taking a dip towards the end of his tenure, United offloaded the Argentina international to Paris Saint-Germain, cutting losses on the club’s most expensive player ever after a mere 12 months.
Given that the Red Devils’ attacking play this season has been far from scintillating at times and there is already an over-reliance on teenage sensation Anthony Martial, parting company with someone of Di María’s standing was perhaps shortsighted.
South American players have traditionally had issues adapting to the hustle bustle of the Premier League and although plenty have succeeded, others with sizeable standings in the global game have not – or taken time to find their feet.
Louis van Gaal used the gifted Argentine as a central midfielder, on both flanks and even as a forward during his 12 months at Old Trafford, with Di María struggling to build any momentum as a result.
Others, such as Ashley Young, were at times given the nod over the South American on occasion, in a puzzling piece of selection policy from the Dutch manager.
Looking back at Di María’s time in England, there were a few bright moments and flashes of genius from a player that was held in such high regard by most in Madrid.
Despite these positive moments being few and far between, the 27-year-old still ended the campaign with ten Premier League assists, with only Cesc Fàbregas and Santi Cazorla recording more. This was double United’s next highest provider.
Before and after the forgettable period in England, Di María has proven himself as a player capable of brilliance and changing a game.
It was his industry, work-rate, creativity and selflessness in Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid side that played a sizeable role in Los Blancos claiming La Décima, while the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo was public in his belief that the Spaniards should not sell the versatile midfielder.
Since moving to PSG, Di María has been given a fresh lease of life and a chance to restore his standing to its former sky-high levels.
The initial signs have been positive that the South American is getting back to his best, with three goals and three assists in six Ligue 1 starts and some strong performances in the Champions League.
The old adage that form is temporary while class is permanent clearly applies here, with Di María set to play a considerable role in the Parc des Princes outfit’s quest for more silverware in 2015-16.
For his former club United, having a player of Di María’s calibre to call on in recent games in particular would surely have been a massive bonus, with the Argentine starting to show Van Gaal and the Old Trafford side exactly what they are missing.