Di Maria and Juan Mata were United’s joint top chance-creators this season, creating 51 chances a-piece.
Di Maria played 24 times for Man Utd, meaning he created an average of 2.1 chances per game.
By comparison, Mata played 28 times, creating 1.8 chances per game on average.
As a team, United were severely lacking in the chance creation department in Van Gaal’s first season at the club – the conservative, possession-focussed football we played in most games meant scoring opportunities were restricted.
In the Premier League chances created table, United were 6th, with 391 potential goalscoring situations engineered throughout the campaign (10.3 chances per game). That’s just 6 more chances than QPR, and an incredible 141 less than Man City!
Given that Di Maria provided the most assists and created the most chances out of anyone in the United team, is it really fair that he’s been almost universally labelled a flop?
Whilst on paper his stats look encouraging, the reality was that he became increasingly frustrating to watch, and Van Gaal’s patience with Di Maria clearly wore thin as the season went on.
He always looked in danger of losing possession (not a quality likely to enamour you with LVG), and his shooting was woeful at times.
In addition, his stupidity in getting sent off against Arsenal did his reputation with United fans no favours.
As much as I’m loathe to quote Robbie Savage, he did a good job of listing the various excuses that have been offered in mitigation of Di Maria’s difficulties:
“He is new to English football”, “he has been injured”, “he has had off-field problems”, “he has been played out of position”, “he has been played in lots of different positions”, “United are yet to find a definite style of play”, “the whole team is not playing well”, “they do not use a system that suits him” and “Louis van Gaal does not want him to play instinctively anymore”.
All of these have some validity, but the wider point is probably that he was never the player we needed. Indeed, it’s rumoured that we only signed Di Maria as a rather bizarre (and exceptionally expensive) plan B after failing to get our hands on Vidal.
With the likes of Young, Mata and Depay all fighting for places in the final third, and hopefully some new blood in central midfield, United’s top chance-creator of 2014/15 may find his own chances limited this coming season.