Manchester United legend Paul Scholes has labeled Angel Di Maria’s red card against Arsenal as the turning point of the season for the club.
United lost last month’s FA Cup quarterfinal 2-1 to the Gunners, but Di Maria’s subsequent suspension gave manager Louis van Gaal the opportunity to reshape his team without the Argentine, who arrived from Real Madrid for £57.9 million in the summer.
In his absence, Juan Mata established himself back in the team, and gave some stellar performances, one notably against Liverpool.
Scholes, who was briefly in the United coaching team when Ryan Giggs was involved wrote in his column for The Independent: “I feel that Angel Di Maria’s red card against Arsenal was critical in allowing Van Gaal to build this new-look team.
“Looking at the side it seems to me to be a triumph of the underdog. Juan Mata, Marouane Fellaini, Ashley Young, all of whom looked like they could be out the picture at the start of the season, are now having a big impact.
“I have been critical of my old club Manchester United under Louis van Gaal this season and I have to say that I did not see this change in fortune coming. To the extent that when they go to Chelsea this weekend, I think they have a good chance of winning the game.”
Scholes also hailed the current manager Louis van Gaal’s tactics, saying that the Dutch has been more attacking in his approach than he thought, with the 4-3-3 formation: “The formation is bold. It is much more attacking and more what I expected of Van Gaal when he arrived. There is a spine of four players — Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera, Fellaini and Wayne Rooney — that runs through the middle, then Young and Mata wide.”
Juan Mata also earned well-deserved praise from the former mid-fielder, referring to him as the unsung hero of the derby win: “For all the attention after the derby win over Manchester City on Fellaini and Young, a lot of the credit has to go to Mata. He has given United such composure. He is not a winger, in the conventional sense, but he comes inside and gets involved in the game. He always passes to a red shirt and he is so cool, as you saw with his finish against City.”
“Scholesy” also believes that van Gaal has finally found the correct position for Fellaini, which David Moyes couldn’t.
Scholes said: “When I was coaching under Ryan Giggs at the end of last season, we always felt that Fellaini’s best position was as an unorthodox No. 10 — the role he is playing now.
“When he first joined United, David Moyes had played him as a central midfielder, but I don’t think controlling the game from there is Fellaini’s biggest strength.
“When I played against him when he was at Everton, he was just a giant nuisance: elbows up, big and strong, and always liable to peel off and take up a position at the back post.
“That is how Van Gaal is playing him now and not asking Fellaini to do the things he finds more difficult. I do wonder whether Fellaini has the quality to win games in the Champions League latter stages, but that is for another day. I always found him a good, committed player who trained hard.”
Edited by Priyanshi Gupta
Pursuing Computer Science Engineering from Bangalore Institute of Technology. Avid sports fan, specially football. A lifelong United supporter.