Gary Neville and Roy Keane were left far from impressed by Argentina veteran Angel di Maria’s performance against Mexico on Saturday, in which the two-time World Cup winners laboured to a 2-0 win. Although the Juventus forward got an assist in the second half, his involvement was a more or less straight forward 15-yard pass to his left before Lionel Messi’s stunning strike to take the lead.
The result flattered to deceive Argentina, but it was Di Maria that came in for particularly poor reviews, with both pundits also commenting on his disastrous spell with their former club, Manchester United. The 34-year-old winger spent a single season at United in 2014-15 before leaving for PSG after a £64.6million (€75m) switch from Real Madrid.
During that time though the Argentina international managed only four goals and 12 assists in 32 games, in what was a disappointing return for a player that was among the top forwards in Europe at the time. But despite the extra motivation, the opening 45 minutes saw a turgid and toothless performance from the side that many had earmarked to go on and win the tournament for a third time in their history.
Argentina went into the clash on Saturday knowing that defeat would make them only the second side to be officially out of the tournament, after hosts Qatar had been eliminated the day before.
And on the night that he won his 126th cap for his country, both Neville and Keane thought Di Maria’s display was particularly poor. ‘He is the biggest disappointment to ever come to Manchester United him… He’s got no heart,’ Neville began, talking to ITV as part of their World Cup coverage.
‘He’d break your heart, I’m not sure he’s got one. Go on and do something. He’s guaranteed to give it (the ball) away,’ continued Keane.‘Take him off. His end product and decision making for an experienced player is so poor.’
He managed only one successful cross from five attempts, failed to have a single shot, and had the third fewest passes in the game on his side with 24 – just one more than Emiliano Martinez in goal. Neville continued in his criticism, this time slamming the team as a whole, adding: ‘You start to think, “Is this what Argentina are?” there’s no rhythm, no pattern of play.
The 34-year-old has now played in four World Cups for Argentina, scoring twice and getting his first assist on Saturday evening. And although he has played for some of the biggest sides in European football Real Madrid, PSG, Manchester United, Juventus – he struggled to help Lionel Messi inspire his side.
‘They’ve got a job to do here. It’s a really poor Argentina performance. England played really badly last night, but how many of those England players would you swap for Argentina players?
‘I think the talent we’ve got… Argentina hasn’t got that.’Keane concluded: ‘Some of the play from Argentina has been so poor, it’s like watching a Championship match.‘The manager’s made five changes but there has been no reaction.’