5 key-passes; 1 take-on: Did Manchester United's Angel Di Maria play well, despite criticism?

Angel Di Maria

Angel Di Maria faced criticism for his display against Swansea, but does he deserve slightly more credit?

Manchester United stumbled to a second defeat in 16 matches as they visited the Liberty Stadium to face Swansea on Saturday afternoon. The visitors took the lead on 28 minutes through Ander Herrera, but Ki Sung-yueng equalised for the home side just two minutes later.

However, while United looked the dominant force throughout the second period, it was the Swans who scored the decisive goal 17 minutes from time with Jonjo Shelvey's strike deflecting off Bafetimbi Gomis, past the flailing David De Gea, and into the back of the net.

Angel Di Maria has faced disapproval in recent weeks, following a string of lacklustre displays, and the same can be said about Saturday's match. However, playing in what many consider as his best role, on the left side of central midfield, the Argentine's performance against Swansea was actually more impressive than pundits and supporters are giving him credit for. 

  MatchTouchesTotal ShotsGoalsKey PassesAssistsTotal PassesPass Accuracy (%)Take OnsMins Played
Ángel Di María Swansea vs Man Utd 82 0 0 5 1 57 79 1 79

The common criticism facing the Argentine this season is that his pace makes him look dangerous, but his delivery lets him down. However, the statistics suggest otherwise. Indeed, the Argentine completed five key passes at the Liberty Stadium, more than any other player involved, while he found success in just a single take-on - roles reversed. 

He even provided the final pass for United’s only goal of the afternoon, slipping the ball to Ander Herrera, who dispatched with aplomb. This saw him record his eighth assist of the season, drawing him level with Gylfi Sigurdsson and Leighton Baines, behind only Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas (15) - the division's runaway leader in this department. 

  TeamGoal AssistAppearancesMinutes Played
Cesc Fàbregas Chelsea 15 23 1,961
Leighton Baines Everton 8 22 1,980
Ángel Di María Man Utd 8 18 1,377
Gylfi Sigurdsson Swansea 8 22 1,840

Furthermore, Di Maria's deliveries from wide areas were a key source of danger from a United perspective, and he deserved at least one of them to be converted - of his 13 attempted balls into the 18-yard-box, four caused particular danger for the Swans' back-four. In an attacking capacity, this was actually a relatively impressive display from the Argentine. 

During his final season with Real Madrid, his performances also became noted for his comprehensive defensive contribution, and we witnessed glimpses of this side to his game against the Swans. Here, he found success in his only attempted tackle and a further three interceptions. 

This was by no means a top quality performance for the Argentine. He looked weak on the ball, and found himself dispossessed with ease at times, but there is no escaping the fact he was Manchester United's most creative player - perhaps a worrying realisation for Louis van Gaal. 

His current displays are far from the quality of those at the beginning of the season, but, throughout a period in which the Red Devils have been less than inspiring, he remains one of the club's better performers.

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