Smalling praises ‘special’ Di Maria

by Richard Laverty

Chris Smalling has praised Manchester United team-mate Angel Di Maria after six months of playing with one of the world’s best midfielders.

Di Maria’s achievements in 2014 were recognised at the recent Ballon d’Or ceremony for playing a huge role in winning the Champions League with Real Madrid before moving to Old Trafford.

Louis van Gaal made Di Maria the club’s record signing, smashing the previous £42m United paid out for Juan Mata just a few months previous and Smalling feels it has been a pleasure to play with such a ‘special’ footballer, saying anybody would want the Argentine in their team.

“I imagine Angel is a player that any fan would want in their team and any player in the world would want to play with,” the defender enthused.

“We were lucky enough to be able to get him. I remember watching his matches for Real Madrid last season – he was up and down the pitch, creating so many goals. He is a special player.”

Di Maria, who became United’s club record signing for £59.7m in the summer, had a superb start to life in Manchester, scoring three goals in his first four games before a hamstring injury ruled him out for the Christmas period but having returned from injury recently, fans are excited to see him back in full flow.

Smalling himself had been in good form before Christmas, forming a solid partnership with Marcos Rojo in a back four before Van Gaal returned to using the unpopular 3-5-2 system.

With Cambridge United next on the horizon, both could be set for limited roles as Van Gaal prepares to shuffle his pack.

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