LONDON — Manchester United will be hoping that record signing Angel Di Maria can give its season a belated kick-start this weekend, when it travels to lowly Burnley as both sides chase a first win of the new campaign.
Chastened by defeat in its opener at home to Swansea, a draw at Sunderland and a humiliating defeat by League One side MK Dons in the Capital One Cup, the arrival of $99 million signing Di Maria from Real Madrid has given United a timely lift.
However, United fans fear another big upset, while manager Louis van Gaal believes patience will be required with the Argentine winger as he adjusts to the Premier League and his new side. “I think that he can contribute and that’s very important, but we don’t want expect, from tomorrow, that the world has changed – no,” Van Gaal said. “He needs to get used to the culture of the Premier League and to the philosophy of Manchester United.”
Van Gaal has asked United fans to bear with him as he changes their 4-4-2 system (four defenders, four midfielders and two attackers) to 5-3-2, his favorite formation and one that has worked well for the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss.
The Dutchman would not say whether Di Maria’s inclusion means he must be flexible with his formations. “It’s a matter of time, because the process needs time and we shall see if, with Di Maria, we have to change the system or not,” he said.
Di Maria could go straight into the squad for this weekend’s trip, but Van Gaal will not be able to call on the services of Shinji Kagawa, who is out after sustaining concussion in the midweek 4-0 Capital One Cup humbling at MK Dons. Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Jesse Lingard also remain on the sidelines.
However, Burnley manager Sean Dyche is wary that the United players will take out all their frustration on his newly promoted side.
“There is a bit of a hoo-ha about Manchester United at the moment,” Dyche said. “I don’t see it like that. I look at the players they have got, the manager they have got, the club they are. I’m not thinking they are going to come here and – by some miracle – not be strong. They will certainly be strong.”
Another new arrival is likely to capture many headlines this weekend, with Mario Balotelli set to make his debut for Liverpool away to Tottenham on Sunday after his $26.5 million move from AC Milan.
The Italy striker will be hoping to lift his teammates after their 3-1 defeat at champion Manchester City, his former side, on Monday night.
Balotelli watched that match from the stands, but Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said, “I think by the weekend he’ll be ready.
“He’s been in preseason [with Milan] and he’s played three 45-minute games. He might not be up to full match speed, but he’s looking fit.”
Champion City entertains Stoke City, while Chelsea is away at Everton. Swansea, together with Tottenham the other side with maximum points from two games, hosts West Bromwich Albion.
Leicester City hosts Arsenal, fresh from qualifying for the group stages of the Champions League in midweek, when new signing Alexis Sanchez scored his first goal for the club.
“Alexis was mobile, dangerous and showed great fighting spirit,” manager Arsène Wenger said after the narrow 1-0 win over Besiktas. “These are qualities that will be important in the Premier League.”
Neil Warnock begins his second spell in charge of Crystal Palace with a trip to Newcastle, Sunderland travels to Queens Park Rangers, West Ham faces Southampton and Hull City heads to Birmingham to play Aston Villa.
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