Former Manchester United winger Angel di Maria believes manager Louis van Gaal was to blame for his failure to live up to his potential at Old Trafford.Argentina international Di Maria joined the Red Devils from Real Madrid in the summer of 2014 for a then-British record fee of £59.7 million ($75m).But he struggled to perform on a consistent basis, contributing four goals and 12 assists in 32 appearances before departing for Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the 2014-15 campaign. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Di Maria, though, believes he could have offered so much more had Van Gaal, who was regularly criticised for his negative brand of football, allowed him to express himself further.”I only stayed for one year. It was not the best time of my career, or rather I was not allowed to spend my best time there,” he told France Bleu.”There were complications with the coach at the time.”But thank God, I was able to come to PSG and demonstrate again who I was.”Di Maria will return to Old Trafford with his PSG team-mates when the two sides meet in the last 16 of the Champions League.Despite being 13 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 and well on track to win a sixth French title in seven years, the Parc des Princes outfit have struggled to lay down a marker when it comes to their European performances.But, having come through a tough group containing Liverpool and Napoli, there is hope that Thomas Tuchel’s side have what it takes to challenge in Europe’s premier club competition.Di Maria, however, is wary of Man Utd’s upturn in form under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with the Norwegian interim manager winning all six of his matches in charge since replacing Jose Mourinho on the touchline.”We still have matches before facing Manchester,” he added. “They have changed with their new coach and they have not lost a match.”I think we started the year not so well in the Champions League, but we put the situation right and we finished top of the group.”It was complicated. Ever since the draw it was said that it would be difficult to reach the round of 16 and we were almost eliminated, but we played a big home game against Liverpool and also against Red Star Belgrade – two big, decisive matches to qualify.”Now, we must think of ourselves and nothing but ourselves. If we do things well, everything will be fine.”
The United States pulled off one of the shocks of the Under-20 World Cup, knocking off tournament favorites and previously undefeated France 3-2 in a last-16 match on Tuesday. Justin Rennicks pounced on a rebound spilled by France goalkeeper Alban Lafont, bundling home the winner in the 83rd minute to give the United States an improbable victory after battling back from a 2-1 second-half deficit. The Americans move on to the Under-20 World Cup quarterfinals for a third straight tournament, and will take on Ecuador on Saturday. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? U.S. striker Sebastian Soto opened the scoring against the run of play, scoring on a 25th-minute counterattack after a through ball from Richie LedezmaBut France looked poised for victory after erasing that early 1-0 deficit, with Amine Gouiri scoring just before halftime, and Nabil Alioui giving the French the lead in the 55th minute.France controlled the match for long stretches, but the Americans received a spark from second-half substitutes Ulysses Llanez and Rennicks, who helped give the U.S. some energy it sorely needed.Soto scored his second goal of the match in the 74th minute when he slipped in behind the French defense and settled an inch-perfect Tim Weah pass before converting his fourth goal of the tournament to tie the score.The United States looked like the more energetic side in the match’s final 25 minutes, with Llanez and Rennicks energizing the attack. The Americans broke through with the winner in the 83rd minute when Sergino Dest sent a long-range blast at goal that forced a save out of Fiorentina goalkeeper Lafont, who failed to catch the shot, spilling a rebound into the path of an alert Rennicks. The New England Revolution rookie raced in to convert the winner.The Americans came into the match as considerable underdogs, not just because of France’s quality, but also because starting midfielders Alex Mendez and Chris Durkin were suspended. U.S. coach Tab Ramos started Ledezma and Paxton Pomykal in their place, and Ledezma made the most of the opportunity, setting up the opening goal of the match with a beautiful dribble and pass to set up Soto’s opener.The United States now moves on and will be looking to reach the U-20 World Cup semifinals for the first time since 1989, when the Americans earned a fourth-place finish.
“This initiative truly reflects the importance of the date palm in the cultural heritage of the United Arab Emirates and in the food economy of the region,” said Jacques Diouf, the FAO Director-General, in remarks at the opening of the third edition of the Khalifa International Date Palm Award in Abu Dhabi.Prizes were awarded to eight winners for excellence in research, techniques, production, cultivation and development. The award is designed to raise awareness of the role of dates in food security.“There is a need to increase the supply of quality plant material for local and regional needs and to go beyond the present framework of date production by government plantations and a limited number of private farmers,” said Mr. Diouf.He paid tribute to Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, saying that the UAE President’s commitment to the development of agriculture and, specifically, to the date palm had prompted increased investment in agriculture and a greater use of modern technology. Mr. Diouf reminded the audience that, as in 2008, international agricultural markets again face higher food commodity prices that could undermine food security even as the world’s population rises, pushing demand higher.The expected growth in the global population – from 6.9 billion today to 9.1 billion people in 2050 – will require a 70 per cent increase in global food production and a 100 per cent increase in developing countries, he said, adding that investment was not keeping pace.‘The share of agriculture in official development assistance fell from 19 per cent in 1980 to 3 per cent in 2006. Currently, it stands at 5 per cent. Developing countries only allocate 5 per cent of their national budgets to the sector, instead of 10 per cent, despite its contribution to gross domestic product, exports and the balance of payments,” said Mr. Diouf.More than 100 million tons of cereals are, meanwhile, diverted from food to biofuels on account of subsidies valued at $13 billion and tariff protection in developing countries, according to Mr. Diouf.“If we add the impact of droughts, floods, hurricanes and other events exacerbated by climate change and the speculation on agricultural commodity futures markets, it becomes clear that the current situation is the chronicle of a disaster foretold,” he added. 15 March 2011The head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today called for greater investment in farming to boost food production, citing the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) investment in date palm cultivation, which has made the country the world’s seventh largest producer of dates.