You might like to label Manchester United’s recent transformation as ingenuity on the part of Louis van Gaal. Indeed, we have always backed him and respected his methods.
But even he would admit that there has been a huge slice of luck in he way that the fortunes of the team have changed over the last few weeks.
The home defeat of Arsenal was one of the lowest points of the season for Manchester United. But, had Angel di Maria not been sent off in that match and subsequently missed the next game, would we be talking about the brilliance of Juan Mata right now?
Mata got into the team because the misfiring Argentine was suspended. But that change has coincided with an altogether better quality Manchester United team. Di Maria is a high risk player who gives the ball away a lot, even when he’s playing well.
But Mata is the antithesis of this. He last gave the ball away in the early 80s and everything he does is marked by meticulous care and attention.
Few would have selected Mata ahead of Di Maria before these games and Louis van Gaal probably wouldn’t either. But that enforced absence really has made all the difference to Manchester United’s season and Di Maria, who was once more awful in his cameo on Sunday, may struggle to get back into the side – especially on the right where the majestic Mata has rediscovered his best form.
Manchester United fans: what now for Di Maria?