It must have been a cruel experience for any Manchester United fan turning on their TV sets to find Angel Di Maria curling in a neat finish past Malmo goalkeeper Johan Wiland in Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-0 win over their Swedish opponents on Tuesday night. Cruel because had Di Maria been on the pitch at PSV Eindhoven’s Philips Stadion in Manchester United colours rather than at the Parc des Princes, things would likely have been different today.
United succumbed to a loss against their unfancied Dutch opponents, and were once again toothless in attack, although improvements were vivid. On a similar note, Javier Hernandez, another ex-Man Utd player let go of this summer, popped up to score his first goal for Bayer Leverkusen against BATE Borisov a day later. All these at a time when Manchester United’s difficulties in attack are screaming out a need for better options.
Not only United, Chelsea loanees Mohamed Salah and Juan Cuadrado also showed why the Blues were supposedly foolish to let them leave this summer as they produced virtuoso performances against holders Barcelona and Premier League leaders Manchester City respectively. Salah impressed on the wide right channel, instigating 47 percent of Roma attacks down that flank and nullifying the attacking threat of the normally flying Jordi Alba.
While Cuadrado, too, turned in a selfless display as he combined defensive and offensive responsibilities with aplomb as an outside right; his strong direct runs and pace meant Manchester City’s most effective combination so far in the season of Aleksandar Kolarov and Raheem Sterling was kept at bay whilst he even facilitated most of Juve’s attacks down the right, the zone through which Juve attacked the most (41 percent of Juve’s attacks came through the right).
That Manchester United and Chelsea let go of players of world class pedigree seems baffling at this stage; probably they will be vindicated by the end of the season and there will appear reasons enough to show why the clubs were right in allowing the players to leave during the summer. But all of that is speculative at the moment, where the two clubs have been hit hard by their former players doing well at other clubs.
It isn’t a given that the players would have performed at similar levels for United and Chelsea too, given there are lots of intangible-tangible factors contributing to their departures from the two clubs but the players have gone on to show why United and Chelsea invested in them in the first place. Simply put, the aforementioned players were simply not good enough to be part of their former clubs when they departed.
Hindsight is a dangerous thing, which is why Manchester United and Chelsea are lamenting the departures of the Di Marias and the Salahs. It would have been an easy call for both clubs had they known beforehand how those players would be performing in the future. Either they did not fit into a certain philosophy, or they failed to show enough desire to play under their respective clubs’ managers or a host of different possibilities which exist.
Di Maria himself revealed why he left Manchester United over the summer, the reasons for which ranged from him being unsettled to not getting along with his manager, Louis van Gaal. Cuadrado was bought by Chelsea in January this year from Fiorentina, and after an unproductive six-month spell in London, he was loaned out to Juventus. Probably he was never wanted by Jose Mourinho, or there might be other reasons why he left Chelsea this summer.
In retrospection, the deals to send players out either on loan or on permanent deals by both Manchester United and Chelsea reflect poorly on the clubs, but such is the unpredictable nature of football that the clubs and their fans will soon forget about their departed stars as soon as better days come along, and likewise, more such retrospective talks will take centre stage should the clubs not produce results along their lines of expectations.