Zabaleta
Zabaleta has a close relationship with Di Maria.Reuters

Manchester City right-back Pablo Zabaleta has told IBTimes UK his compatriot and friend Angel Di Maria needs more time to adapt to the Premier League intensity.

Zabaleta is a close pal of the former Real Madrid star and the duo are team mates in Argentina national side – playing alongside one another in the World Cup final defeat to Germany this summer.

Following his record £59.7m move from the Santiago Bernabeu to Old Trafford this summer, Di Maria made a stellar impact on Louis van Gaal's new-look formation in his first five games, scoring three goals and receiving the club's Player of the Month award for September.

However, the Argentinian looked more subdued during the recent crucial games against Chelsea and Manchester United.

When asked by IBTimes UK whether his friend has what it takes to become the United leader, Zabaleta said: "It's a new experience from him because the intensity of the games (like the derby) and the Premier League demand a lot from the players."

"He finished the last season late because of the World Cup and at the very last minute he made a change, joining United. But he is going to be an important player for Manchester United.

"You always need important players in a team but also you need the players to work well as a team. And United still need to improve that."

United have struggled under van Gaal, registering the club's worst start to a season since 1986/87, sitting 10th in the table, with just 13 points from 10 games.

Asked whether he has been surprised by United poor start, Zabaleta said: "This is a very inconsistent season (for everyone)."

"Liverpool are being inconsistent, United are already many points behind Chelsea and we have lost important games, giving Chelsea the chance to increase the gap.

"They (Chelsea) are the most consistent, so they are the leaders. But obviously we will do everything possible to reach them and obviously we are still candidates to win the title."