Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Image

Di Maria: My only problem at Manchester United was Van Gaal

1 Comment

First of all today is Angel Di Maria’s 31st birthday. Happy birthday, fella.

The Argentine is probably feeling pretty good after his latest trip around the Sun, especially given its most recent moment was Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-0 defeat of former club Manchester United in the first leg of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16.

[ MORE: Man Utd paid a lot to fire Mourinho ]

Di Maria was in the headlines after the game because an Old Trafford attendee tossed a bottle at him, part of what’s prompted a UEFA investigation into both sets of fans.

Di Maria, however, insists he has no problems with United or its fans, saying his poor memories of Old Trafford rest only with manager Louis Van Gaal.

“I’ve said it in the past and I reiterate it, I never spoke badly of the people here and of this club,” Di Maria said. “These are things that happen and people took it badly. I only had problems with the coach here.”

The numbers say that Di Maria wasn’t all that bad at Old Trafford; He just didn’t quite live up to his standards (He also had fewer matches than any time in his career because United was neither in the Champions nor Europa League.

Here are Di Maria’s matches, goals, and assists since he turned 21 and broke out with Benfica. While the numbers don’t tell the whole story of any seasons, they are a guiding light and also show why he’s considered a star everywhere outside of England.

There’s little doubt that Manchester United and the Premier League are a significant challenge compared to the Portuguese and French leagues, so perhaps his numbers should speak for themselves anyway.

To boot:

Benfica
2009-10 — 45 matches, 10 goals, 19 assists
Real Madrid
2010-11 — 53 matches, 9 goals, 26 assists
2011-12 — 32 matches, 7 goals, 17 assists
2012-13 — 52 matches, 9 goals, 17 assists
2013-14 — 52 matches, 11 goals, 25 assists
Manchester United
2014-15 — 32 matches, 4 goals, 12 assists
Paris Saint-Germain
2015-16 — 47 matches, 15 goals, 25 assists
2016-17 — 43 matches, 14 goals, 15 assists
2017-18 — 45 matches, 21 goals, 12 assists
2018-19 — 32 matches, 10 goals, 11 assists

Champions League wrap: BVB on fire, Barca wins without Messi

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
Leave a comment

It was a bit of a slow burn, but the UEFA Champions League sure provided more drama once the goals started coming in Wednesday.

[ UCL: Standings | Box scores ]

PSV Eindhoven 2-2 Tottenham HotspurRECAP

El Tri star Hirving Lozano gave the Dutch hosts an early and surprising lead, but Lucas Moura and Harry Kane helped dominant Spurs to a 2-1 advantage.

However, Spurs again lost it late. Hugo Lloris took a red card to send Tottenham down to 10 men, and Luuk De Jong struck in the 87th minute to earn a point for PSV.

Barcelona 2-0 Inter Milan

Lionel Messi’s broken arm kept him from this one, but the Blaugranas broke through against tricky Inter. Luis Suarez sent a delightful assist to Rafinha for the first goal, and Jordi Alba shut it down with a late goal and continued Barca’s perfect start to the group stage.

Liverpool 4-0 Red Star BelgradeRECAP

Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino joined a Mohamed Salah brace on the score sheet, but the story may have been Fabinho‘s fine work in the midfield as Liverpool goes atop Group C.

Paris Saint-Germain 2-2 Napoli

Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens gave the visitors leads at the Parc des Princes, but PSG twice found answers including a gorgeous Angel Di Maria finish deep in stoppage time to leave Group C cluttered at the midpoint.

Galatasaray 0-0 Schalke

USMNT youngster Weston McKennie was an 82nd minute sub as Schalke ground out a result in what is perhaps its most difficult fixture of the group stage.

Lokomotiv Moscow 1-3 Porto

Champions League legend Iker Casillas stopped a penalty as Porto got goals from a pair of Mexican national teamers. Hector Herrera scored in the first half, and Jesus Corona nabbed this one late.

Borussia Dortmund 4-0 Atletico Madrid

Lucien Favre’s BVB condemned Diego Simeone to his worst European defeat, with Achraf Hakimi producing three assists to all but put the German side in the knockout rounds.

Raphael Guerreiro scored twice, with Jadon Sancho and Axel Witsel also scoring for Dortmund. USMNT midfielder Christian Pulisic played 79 minutes before making way for Sancho.

Club Brugge 1-1 AS Monaco

Thierry Henry gets Monaco its first point in the UCL, and his first point as a manager, but he won’t be pleased after the visitors conceded just eight minutes after Moussa Sylla put them ahead in Belgium.

Klopp backs ‘fantastic, outstanding’ Neymar ahead of Champions League match

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jurgen Klopp isn’t having any of the criticism of Brazilian superstar Neymar.

Ahead of Liverpool’s Champions League match against Paris Saint-Germain at Anfield, Klopp sang Neymar’s praises and said the team will do its best to cope with “Neymar, the full football package.”

“I don’t think he’s a person who wants to act or something like that, because if you are like that you can’t play the football he plays,” Klopp said in his pre-match press conference on Monday. “So I don’t think about these kind of things, to be honest. He got rested over the weekend so he will be 100% fresh for us, he’s not injured anymore, so we will see the full package, Neymar the football package, so we have to cope with that, and that’s what we’ll try.”

Neymar was criticized throughout the World Cup for his acting, diving and rolling to earn fouls. The Brazilian was the most-fouled player at the tournament at the time of Brazil’s elimination in the Round of 16, and their early departure added more fuel to the fire. Klopp says that while teams in Russia this summer looked to hack Neymar as a purposeful tactic, his side will avoid that strategy during Tuesday’s match.

“We play football. We want to win the ball and we don’t try to act in these kind of things. We try to avoid passes to him, we try to avoid him winning challenges and all that stuff which is a big job to do, to be honest. I’m not sure if it’s even possible to avoid his quality 100%…I’m pretty sure it’s not, so that’s all. He’s a fantastic footballer, an outstanding player.”

Klopp even backed Neymar’s behavior on the pitch, saying, “When I saw a few games at the World Cup…I know what a few people were talking about when it looked like he made a bit more of the situation than it was. That’s, for me, a completely normal reaction because players are really going for him, that’s the truth, and he wants to protect himself and I understand that as well.”

The Liverpool boss said that Neymar was also injured during the World Cup, and claimed that Brazil would have beaten Belgium in the Round of 16 had its superstar been fully fit.

Neymar is just the start of the PSG attacking presence Liverpool will be forced to deal with. Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani also pose serious threats, with the trio combining for 11 goals so far this season. Angel Di Maria also looks on his game, with four goals himself this campaign. PSG was without Neymar and Mbappe this weekend, with the Brazilian rested and his French teammate suspended, and the defending champions still defeated St. Etienne 4-0 with Cavani and Di Maria on the scoresheet plus a goal from Julian Draxler and late substitute Moussa Diaby.

Di Maria, Weah guide PSG to French Super Cup win over Monaco

Twitter/@PSG_inside
Leave a comment

Even without a host of their stars, Paris Saint-Germain made easy work of their Ligue 1 rivals Monaco on Saturday in the Trophee des Champions.

[ MORE: Lampard wins Derby managerial debut with last-minute goal ]

Although Neymar made a late appearance for PSG, who went on to win the match 4-0, ahead of the start of the 2018/19 Ligue 1 season, all eyes were on a younger host of players for Thomas Tuchel’s side.

Angel di Maria’s brace helped pace the Parisians on the day, particularly a brilliant first-half free kick that beat goalkeeper Diego Benaglio in the 33rd minute.

Already up 2-0 at halftime, U.S. Men’s National Team attacker Tim Weah gave PSG a third goal after the hour mark when he slotted home between the legs of the Monaco shot-stopper.

The Ligue 1 season kicks off next weekend, as PSG hosts Caen on Sunday, while Monaco visits Nantes the day prior.

Video: Di Maria smashes Argentina level before halftime

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Angel di Maria has given Argentina life heading into halftime after blasting a scorcher from distance against France.

The two sides are level at 1-1 at the break, following the Paris Saint-Germain attacker’s strike in the 41st minute.

Following a throw-in, Nicolas Tagliafico centered the ball for Di Maria nearly 30 yards out, before smashing a long-distance shot into the side netting past France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.