£59.7m On a Wing and a Prayer

£59.7m On a Wing and a Prayer


A lot can change in the space of three seasons; with the English record signing of Angel Di Maria (9.5m in the FPL game) for Manchester United, we’re taking a trip down memory lane. Although, we’re not delving too far back in all fairness.

Let’s set the scene, it’s the end of 2011/12 (a mere 2 and a bit seasons ago) and United have the best wingers in the league. Wingers who can not stop scoring and assisting for the life of them. Confidence is flowing through the very veins of Antonio Valencia, Luis Nani and Ashley Young. They were very much a fantasy dream for those of you who reaped the rewards of United’s wing-play.

The Vital Statistics – 2011/12

It was take your pick time as all 3 shared United’s 2 wide positions during the course of the 2011/12 season and had their hands in all sorts of goals. Looking at the current state of these midfielders/converted wing-backs, you’d think I’m talking out of my rear end but the stats don’t lie and neither do Shakira’s hips but as that doesn’t affect fantasy football, let’s stick to the stats:

  1. Antonio Valencia – 4 goals and 14 assists
  2. Luis Nani – 8 goals and 10 assists
  3. Ashley Young – 6 goals and 9 assists

Impressive returns that are even more impressive given that they were sharing 2 positions so gametime between the 3 was limited. 18 goals and 33 assists from your wingers, now those are stats that any manager would snap your hand off for.

Oh How It Can All Change – 2012/13 and 2013/14

After this season, fantasy managers were queuing up to get United wingers into their starting squads. Little did we know it would turn out to be a big mistake. Despite winning the title in the end in 2012/13, it had little to do with United’s star wingers of yesteryear and more to do with a rampant Robin. RVP’s goals were vital in his debut season and led United to the league title whilst Valencia, Nani and Young played little part; a mere 2 goals and 10 assists between the lot of them.

If you thought those morsels were bad, last season was even worse with 4 goals and 4 assists from United’s wingers. What happened, we’ll never know and Fergie might not even truly know how it all went wrong. One thing is for certain though, United’s wide men went from playing their best and most consistent football to become players who couldn’t buy a goal or assist.

Where Are They Now?

So what has become of our fallen fantasy heroes; well Nani has been sent back to Sporting in the hope that he’ll find himself again along with his talent whilst Van Gaal is busy trying to turn Valencia and Young into rampaging wing backs. However, he seems to have a bit of a problem as neither can really defend or attack with any real purpose.

It’s true that Valencia has filled in at right back before but he was never first choice and defensive frailties tend to be found out over the course of the season. Young on the other hand has never been a defender barring early Watford days but that’s going back to the dark ages and against very different attacking opposition.

Going forward, as we can see from previous stats, neither have impressed of late. Young may have appeared to be a winger reborn in pre-season but has done little to impress in FPL so far, whilst Valencia did well to assist Mata against Sunderland but failed to get the better of Van Aanholt for the rest of the entire game.

Enter The Record Signing

With all of this in mind, it comes as no surprise that United were willing to break the budget when Di Maria signalled his interest in joining the United faithful. There is no doubting the Argentinian’s quality and he has consistently delivered for Real Madrid, season after season.

Last year, no one in Spain created more goals than he did, with 22 in all competitions. According to Opta, over the last 4 seasons in La Liga only Messi has accrued more assists. The list reads: Messi 57, Di María 49, Mesut Özil 47. A closer look at his returns shows the following:

  • 2010/11 – 6 goals and 11 assists
  • 2011/12 – 5 goals and 15 assists
  • 2012/13 – 7 goals and 6 assists
  • 2013/14 – 4 goals and 17 assists

Throw in a further 7 goals and 13 assists in the Champions League during this time and Di Maria’s consistency is very impressive. From those in the know, it appears Di Maria’s sale was orchestrated by Real’s club president with Ancelotti and the Madrid players aware that they’ve lost an asset and a valuable team-mate.

Di Maria’s got a lot of weight on his shoulders; with a record fee and United stumbling, everyone will be looking to him to turn things around. He can’t do it on his own but Di Maria (9.5m) is a star and one that we’re going to watch very closely. With no European distractions, Di Maria’s sole aim will be to terrorise Premier League defences and could be one former Galactico we can’t ignore as the season progresses.

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