VAN OFFERS ANGEL GAME OF PATIENCE
FALLEN ANGEL: Di Maria’s struggle for form at Old Trafford have prompted Van Gaal to declare he still needs time to settle LOUIS VAN GAAL has leapt to the defence of record buy Angel Di Maria after hauling him off at half-time.
Di Maria is struggling to live up to his billing as British football’s most expensive import after Manchester United splashed out £59.7million to sign him from Real Madrid last summer.
After a bright start to his Old Trafford career, the Argentina international has struggled for form in recent weeks.
He hit rock bottom when getting the hook in United’s laboured 2-0 win over Sunderland on Saturday.
But Red Devils boss Van Gaal insists Di Maria still needs to time to find his feet.
And he is backing the 27-year-old, who wasn’t helped to settle by an attempted burglary at his Cheshire home in January, to come good.
Van Gaal said: “I think it counts for all the players that we have bought, the first season is always difficult.
“You can see it for every player we have bought – Shaw, Blind, Herrera, Falcao and also Di Maria.
“For me, it is not a big surprise. It is more a big surprise when he adapted as quickly as possible.
“In Holland, Spain and Germany I had the same experience with players.
“We have to give him time, not just Di Maria but all the players. We wait and see.”
United haven’t exactly helped their new recruits by failing to gel as a squad.
Despite that, they have managed to force their way into the top four and hang on to a Champions League spot ahead of tonight’s trip to Newcastle.
But the chasing pack is snapping at their heels ready to pounce on any slip-ups.
And Van Gaal admits he shares Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s view that the race for a top-four finish will go to the wire.
The Dutchman added: “He is more experienced in the Premier League, so I want to believe him.
“But it is going to the last week, I know that also. I have said that already. It’s a rat race.” Striker Robin van Persie misses out with an ankle injury, but Michael Carrick could face his hometown club after making it onto the bench last weekend following another lengthy absence with a calf injury.
Moussa Sissoko reckons Newcastle will bring an end to their slog on the Tyne against Man United, who have lost just once in their last 11 visits to St James’ Park.
Van Gaal’s side tasted defeat last time out on the road – 2-1 at Swansea – and Sissoko is confident Toon can make it more away-day misery for the Red Devils.
The France midfielder (above) said: “At home we can beat anybody and, if we play like we know we can, then we can trouble any side.”
Jack Colback serves the second of a two-match ban, but defender Massadio Haidara hopes to be available despite being carried off with a knee injury in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Aston Villa.