Chris Flanagan: New Angel of Manchester United not in heaven at Burnley

First published in Sport
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This Is Lancashire: Photograph of the Author by , Sports reporter

IN May he was man of the match in the Champions League final, by August he was being subjected to chants of 'what a waste of money' by the Longside. Angel Di Maria did not sign up for this.

Derided only half an hour into his Manchester United debut, after a pass that found not his team-mate but the touchline, by 70 minutes Di Maria had had enough.

Burnley's pressing game and refusal to bow to reputations had worn him down. It wasn't like this at the Bernabeu.

A kick to the calf was the final straw. Di Maria jogged on for a little while, then dropped to the turf.

The millions watching around the world had seen United's £59.7m signing concede metaphorical defeat.

"Di Maria on the floor again, this time with a cracked eyelash," read one tweet.

"Welcome to the Premier League sunshine."

The tweet came from Lord Sugar, the former Tottenham chairman who has seen a few Carlos Kickaballs in his time.

Yes, Di Maria helped Real Madrid to European glory and, yes, he helped Argentina to the World Cup final.

But this was that almost mythical, forever cliched test of any foreign player. How would he cope at Turf Moor - if not on a wet Wednesday night, then on a Saturday afternoon in that fine rain that soaks you through?

The 26-year-old did not exactly look enamoured by his surroundings on his arrival before kick-off, and as it turned out Burnley solved a problem like Di Maria with very little difficulty.

The best left-footed midfielder on the pitch was not Di Maria, or even Juan Mata.

It was David Jones, the former Manchester United youngster who came the closest of anyone to finding the net when his early free kick came back off the crossbar.

Di Maria trudged off with 20 minutes left, unable or unwilling to play on after that kick to the calf.

Wayne Rooney had not enjoyed his afternoon much more, deliciously nutmegged by Kieran Trippier during the first half.

If Trippier has international ambitions, doing that to the newly appointed England captain is no bad way to get Roy Hodgson's attention.

Sir Alex Ferguson watched on from the directors' box, probably disapprovingly at another unconvincing United performance.

The current incumbent Louis van Gaal sat calmly throughout in the dugout, occasionally making notes. Perhaps one said 'it was much more fun when I was here with Ajax'.

Maybe another should have been 'this formation doesn't work' as his new 3-5-2 system again threatened to embarrass his ill-at-ease defenders, seemingly unsure of where to stand or who to mark.

If Burnley could have driven a bus through some of the gaps left, that does not take anything away from the stirring performance Sean Dyche's men produced.

Determined, tenacious, committed. United were never given a moment's peace.

A fortnight ago Chelsea had the brilliance to somehow overcome it. United just could not.

Beaten 1-0 on their last Premier League visit five years ago, it is now 38 years or 14,014 days since United last scored a league goal at Turf Moor.

For Bertie Bee there was the half time ice bucket challenge, for the away team there was simply cold water poured all over the excitement surrounding their new British transfer record signing.

There may have been an Angel looking down on Burnley on Saturday. But he certainly wasn't in heaven.

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