Angel di Maria on the art of wing play

Manchester United's Argentine wizard Angel di Maria shares the secrets of bossing the flank
  • Creativity is why you're in the team
  • Seek space when your team-mates move
  • Get your foot in and help the defence
  • It's not all about beating your man
  • Getting kicked: It's in the winger's job description
  • You're never too old to learn

Always be inventive

“When teams are defending deep – ‘parking the bus’ – it’s important to stay relaxed and focus on keeping the ball moving and searching for the gaps. As a winger you have to keep doing what you’re there to do: run at someone, create a chance or draw a foul and deliver a cross into the area for the strikers. For wingers it’s important to try to be inventive: to do something different to beat the defenders and create a chance for your team.”

Drop in when you can

“At Madrid the three forwards always have freedom of movement. We can swap places and look for spaces whenever we want. If you’re out wide, you watch what the others are doing: if one player goes outside, try to drop inside to fill the space. You’re always looking for room. Me, Ronaldo, Benzema, Adebayor – whoever plays, Mourinho asks us to do the same thing: to be mobile and when near the area, to take people on and take our chances.”
 

Remember: track back

“Mourinho wants us to be aggressive, with and without the ball, so I’ve had to adapt defensively to what he wants from us. I knew if I was going to be in his team that I’d have to run and put my foot in. It’s because of this that I’m playing and getting better. My position is different now [to when I was at Benfica] so my mentality is a bit different. I know the coach wants us to run and pressure but still have ‘air’ left to attack, so I have worked with that in mind.”

Creating chances is key

“Some wingers may be happy with dribbling past a few players but it’s important to remember you’re in the team to make chances for your team-mates. If you can make space for the forwards or play a pass for them to put them one-on-one with the goalkeeper, that’s when you’ve really done your job. Fast wingers can beat defenders. The best wingers make goalscoring chances.”

Accept you’ll get kicked

“At one point this season, I got kicked so often that I got frustrated. But after a while you realise that it’s something you have to endure when you’re dribbling past players. Some kicks I can accept; when it’s one of those that the defender has no choice because otherwise you’re through on goal, that I can understand. But when it’s a foul that’s unnecessary and can really hurt you, that’s still difficult to take.”

Keep evolving

“Every year, you grow in all ways – in a football sense, in a mental sense. And the older you get, the better you understand football; the better you know it. You come to learn things that you did not know before and I’m still trying to evolve now. For example, I’m trying to improve my positional play: when to pressure and when to back off, when to open up the pitch, when to close it. As an attacker, you can’t just be happy to beat players. You want to make an all-round contribution to the team.”

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