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Angel of the northwest: Di Maria silences boo boys as PSG star has final word

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Roar Rookie
13th February, 2019
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The boos rung around Old Trafford for 79 of Angel Di Maria’s 81 minutes back at his former home. For the two minutes of sheer Mancunian silence, the away fans were sent into raptures by their midfield maestro.

It was clear Di Maria came back to Manchester with a fire in his belly and a desire to silence those who so fleetingly adored him once upon a time. The United fans made their feelings known from go to whoa, voicing their displeasure at a player branded a big-money flop.

That rhetoric is undeniably overstated, with Di Maria looking the best player in the Premier League during his early tenure. Think of his astonishing chip at the King Power or his first two months at the club.

Ultimately the slightly built attacker fell out of form, along with many of his teammates, during the Louis van Gaal era. Injury also curtailed Di Maria, bringing a halt to his spectacular start in Manchester.

Many before him have failed to make the grade at Carrington – and, it must be said, under far better managers. Diego Forlan, Memphis Depay and Juan Sebastian Veron all proving themselves to be top players once moving on to greener pastures.

Many United fans can attest to how differently players can perform under a stubborn and defensive manager. Paul Pogba, anyone?

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Moreover, Di Maria’s renaissance has been evident since arriving in the French capital, yet tonight proved a statement to fans which turned on him and the press who voted him the worst signing of 2014-15.

So often a second fiddle to the wildly talented Neymar, Paris Saint-Germain’s No.11 took the lead, orchestrating a magnificent PSG amidst a cauldron of hostility. Two assists on the night certainly silenced those in red when it mattered most.

In what was one of PSG’s finest European performances away from home, Thomas Tuchel and his injury-ravaged squad served a potent rebuke to those who have sneered at their resiliency on the continent.

PSG were without two of their galacticos, Edinson Cavani and Neymar, and as such Man United went into the tie as favourites. One could argue the home side had a stronger squad – certainly a stronger bench – heading into the first leg.

However, this proved a moot point, as the PSG defence transformed United into a predictable, unthreatening side – a far cry from the barnstorming performances of recent under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

While the brilliance of Di Maria and PSG ruthlessness cannot go unnoticed, Nemanja Matic looked asleep at the corner as Presnel Kimpembe volleyed home to give Paris a lead on 53 minutes.

A wonderfully lofted corner from the little Argentine allowed Kimpembe to sneak around the back with Matic found wanting. David de Gea had no chance to save the close-range effort.

As PSG wheeled off toward their raucous away support, Di Maria himself revelled in United’s misery, offering some profane advice for the home faithful.

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PSG's Angel di Maria controls the ball.

PSG’s Angel di Maria. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

One may have been deterred by being thrust into the stands by Ashley Young and hysterically booed. Not the Argentine. Spurred on by their hatred, Di Maria made a mockery of the opposing club and fans.

Having a beer bottle thrown at him while preparing for a corner would enrage many, yet Di Maria gestured a drinking motion toward the bottle of Heineken.

Judging by the way he walked through United’s defence, one could suggest Old Trafford was his beer garden.

Before his night was finished, Di Maria delivered the decisive assist for Kylian Mbappe to finish Manchester United off. On the hour a blistering counterattack worked to devastating effect. Mbappe looked like an Olympic sprinter, making up at least 20 metres in under three seconds to side-foot the ball past De Gea.

El Fideo was not done carving up his former employer, sending Mbappe through on goal with only a wondrous save denying Paris a third away goal.

It proved party hour for PSG shortly after 60 minutes, with Di Maria and Mbappe producing some flicks and tricks to further inflame the jilted Mancunians.

As he was substituted on 81 minutes Di Maria emphasised his love for the Parisian faithful, clapping them almost perpetually – undoubtedly it was a message towards his former fans too.

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Manchester United will have it all to do in Paris, trailing 2-0 thanks to one who used to be their own. Paul Pogba’s sending off will prove another mountain for Solskjaer’s men to climb.

Out of the British cold and into the fire, Angelino showed the northwest and wider England what he can do. It proved fitting that he of all people ensured more Manchester misery in Europe.

Their last Champions League knockout win came in March 2014, and Di Maria’s impact may mean another year’s wait at least.

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‘Ole’ was shouted around Old Trafford as the match neared its end. However, the ironic exultations were coming from the away end rather than being a celebration of the Red Devils’ interim manager.

The procession that was the final minutes provided a reality check for the home side. They are still a way away from their former glories.

Another reality concerns the standing of Angel Di Maria, a wonderful player who proved he is far more than the struggling star previously shackled by injuries and ignorant management.

Both he and PSG will look to give United a similarly frosty welcome as they look to seal their quarter-final place in three weeks time.