Danny Murphy believes that the “arrogance” of Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal is having an adverse effect on Angel di Maria’s form.
The Argentina international became British football’s all-time most expensive player when he joined the Red Devils from Real Madrid last year after helping to fire Los Blancos to the Champions League.
Initially the switch looked to be a good one for both club and Di Maria, with the silky attacking midfielder slotting straight into the starting XI and repaying the Premier League giants’ investment with goals and assists.
However, his form has tailed off dramatically since the winter, and he was hauled off by LVG against Newcastle last night and Sunderland over the weekend – he was subbed at half-time against the Black Cats.
Murphy – a legend at bitter rivals Liverpool – cannot work out why the Dutchman is shattering Di Maria’s fragile confidence and feels that his actions are not fair on a player of such quality and experience:
“Angel di Maria wasn’t doing that badly against Newcastle,” he told talkSPORT. “If you’re a player struggling, there are two ways to go about fixing it. The manager can either keep you in the team and let you play through it, or he takes you out and gives you a breather.
“Van Gaal has taken him off at half time against Sunderland, so the press is already all over him. He’s obviously said to Di Maria before the Newcastle game, ‘you start the game, get through it, perform, show me what you’ve got’.
“He wasn’t bad but he wasn’t great. Van Gaal decided to take him off after 55 minutes. Now, as a young player, you could accept it because you’re learning and it might just be a bit too much for you.
“But Di Maria’s a brilliant footballer, who is going through a hard time. He’s had some off-the-field issues, and surely Van Gaal needs to help him out, put an arm round him and let him play through it.
“It’s hard to read Van Gaal sometimes. Maybe it’s an arrogance and he wants to show people he’s the boss, whether you’re a 19-year-old or the superstar in the team. It might just be the case that the team comes first and you’re not playing well enough.
“Managers have a stubbornness to prove people wrong. I haven’t seen Van Gaal manage for long enough to see whether it is stubbornness or whether he genuinely thinks he’s doing this for the best interests of the team.
“Surely the best interests of the team are having a flying fit Di Maria. By doing what he’s done to him in the last few games it’s a very difficult place to come back from.
“They only have 10 games to go though in a brilliant fight with Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal for those remaining two Champions League places. You need your best players. Di Maria’s spirit is not going to be high at the moment, the next game he plays he’s going to be under enormous pressure because of what Van Gaal has done to him.
“I don’t think we’ll see the best of Di Maria until next season.”