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Aug 26, 2014

Five Aside: Di Maria a skillful crosser

ESPN FC's Craig Burley analyses how new signing Angel Di Maria will help get Manchester United back on track.

Angel Di María's transfer from Real Madrid to Manchester United was finalized on Tuesday. Here are five notes on the money and what Di María can bring to United ...

* The money may be the headline story. The 59.7 million pounds ($99 million) is the largest transfer fee ever paid by an English club, topping the 50 million pounds ($80 million) Chelsea gave Liverpool for Fernando Torres three years ago. Only four transfers have been larger around the world, and all were paid by Real Madrid and Barcelona.

* Di María led Real Madrid with 17 assists in the 2013-14 La Liga season, five more than any other player and the most by any player in Europe's top five leagues last season. Only Lionel Messi has had more assists in any of the last five seasons in the top five European leagues.

ALL-TIME HIGHEST TRANSFER FEES

1) £85m Gareth Bale -- Tottenham to Real Madrid, Sept. 2013

2) £80m Cristiano Ronaldo -- Man Utd to Real Madrid, June 2009

3) £75m Luis Suarez -- Liverpool to Barcelona, July 2014

4) £71m James Rodriguez -- Monaco to Real Madrid, July 2014

5) £59.7m Angel Di Maria -- Real Madrid to Man Utd, August 2014

6) £56m Kaka -- AC Milan to Real Madrid, June 2009

* Di María works the sides of the field like few others. He picked up 10 of those 17 assists on crosses, sending in a total of 264 crosses last season, 154 more than any other Real Madrid player. He completed 28 percent of his attempts, which may not sound impressive, but is well above the league average of 22 percent and higher than the 25 percent rate of his Real Madrid teammates.

* Whether Di María can sustain his excellence is another question. In the 2012-13 season, he completed only 13 percent of his crosses, and his completion rate over his first three seasons with Real Madrid was 18 percent.

* His new club, Manchester United, used the cross more than any other team in the Premier League last season, attempting 999 crosses and completing 21 percent of them, slightly below the league average. New manager Louis van Gaal may bring a different attacking scheme, but through (the admittedly small sample size of) two games, United has sent in 47 crosses, sixth-most in the league, completing only 13 percent, the third-lowest rate.

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