Angel Di Maria was last night on the brink of completing his £63.9m club-record move from Real Madrid to Manchester United. The Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal refused to confirm the transfer of the Argentine to Old Trafford had taken place, but he did not hide his admiration of the 26-year-old.
Di Maria is expected to sign a five-year deal with a salary of around £180,000 a week.
"I cannot say anything about transfers, you have to understand that," said Van Gaal after United's 1-1 draw at Sunderland yesterday. "When a transfer has been finished then we can say something. But now you have to wait and see. When the moment is there Manchester United shall announce it.
"It is not only Di Maria, maybe Vidal or Messi! We are a big club. I think the club always has to announce, and when we think it is the right time we will come to you and say, ok, we have bought this player or that player. At this time we can't say anything but I like Di Maria."
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti confirmed that the player had already said his farewells
to his team-mates.
"Di Maria has not trained with us today (yesterday) and he came in to say goodbye to the players and people at the club," he said. "There is nothing official yet but it is being sorted out. The decision is his and the club has done what it could to keep him here."
Real Madrid stunned Manchester United by asking for nearly £75m for the forward. Manchester United had expected to pay nearer the £60m that Paris Saint-Germain had been quoted when he sought to take the player to France.
The compromise figure of £64m is believed to have satisfied both parties and Van Gaal is eager to add the player to a squad that has struggled for form in their opening two Premier League games.
The transfer will top the £50m Chelsea paid Liverpool for Fernando Torres in 2011. United have already spent £72m this summer to sign left-back Luke Shaw from Southampton, midfielder Ander Herrera and defender Marcos Rojo.
The potential signing of the Argentine was hailed by the club's former defender Gary Neville.
"He can run and Manchester United haven't got any pace in wide areas. It is incredible," said Neville. "That is what the club has been built on for the last 10 to 15 years – being able to get from box to box quickly, being able to spring on teams, having people that can dribble and are quick in the final third. They have Adnan Januzaj but they really have lost that variety."
That veiled criticism was backed up by Van Gaal's verdict following another unconvincing display at the Stadium of Light. United could only manage a 1-1 draw after going ahead through Juan Mata, a result that leaves them with just one point from opening games against Swansea and Sunderland. Van Gaal conceded that is not good enough and also criticised the pace of his team's passing.
"The passing was all too slow, or all too fast, all too hasty," he said.
"No, I cannot say that (it was a better performance than last week) because last week we created more chances.
"We probably had more ball possession and were more dominant than the last match but you still have to win the game and we couldn't so it's a pity."