Louis van Gaal: di Maria like Robben - do stats prove him wrong?

Arjen Robben

Manchester United's club record purchase Angel di Maria has been likened to Bayern Munich attacker - fair, or unjust?

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal bought erstwhile Real Madrid forward Angel di Maria for his positional flexibility.

The Dutchman was speaking after his side received a 4-0 humbling against unfancied League One club MK Dons at Stadium:mk in North Buckinghamshire on Tuesday, August 26, but after discussing the defeat, was questioned over how he would use the Argentine he broke the United club record for.

"I have bought Di Maria because he can play inside and wide," he said. "It's very handy is that for a coach."

He continued by touching on similarities to another of his signings - the 2009 purchase of compatriot Arjen Robben, when both were at Bayern Munich.

"So maybe you remember when I was trainer-coach of Bayern Munich, I bought Arjen Robben, also in late August. He could also play on the wings and inside so then I have always the opportunity to change."

On potential for formation change, he said: "You cannot click your fingers and switch to another system. You are working and have to train with it.

"It’s a matter of time because the process needs time and we shall see if, with Di Maria, we have to change the system or not.

"I think he shall contribute very much in our way of playing, he is also a creative player. I think that he can contribute and that’s very important but we don’t want expect, from tomorrow, that the world has changed – no.

"He needs to get used to the culture of the Premier League and to the philosophy of Manchester United."

 2014 World Cup NationTouches / appsPass AccCross AccChances CreatedAssistShot AccGoalsAppsMins
Di Maria Argentina 82.80 76.86% 29.79% 11 0 37.50% 1 5 422
Robben Netherlands 59.86 86.73% 33.33% 17 1 47.37% 3 7 690

Even when judging by modern standards, di Maria stil lags behind Robben when it comes to attacking efficiency despite having a four year advantage in terms of youth.

The Manchester United purchase, 26-years-old, pulled many of the creative strings for his nation at the recent World Cup tournament in Brazil, as demonstrated by how many touches he had on the football.

However, it was Robben who was more accurate in the pass, more precise with his crossing, more prolific with his ability to create goal-scoring chances, produced more direct assists and was deadlier with his shooting (higher shot accuracy and outscored di Maria by three goals to one).

In Robben's first season under van Gaal at Bayern, he returned 16 goals from 18 starts (24 matches overall) in Bundesliga competition, with seven assists to boot.

The United star man is yet to reach those dizzying goal-scoring heights as he netted just four times from 27 La Liga starts last term, but produced 17 assists.

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