Memphis Depay was substituted at half-time in Manchester United’s 3-1 victory over Liverpool on Saturday after a disappointing individual performance.
With a trip back to his former club PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League beckoning on Tuesday, some of the 21-year-old’s recent performances in United’s famous number seven shirt suggest he is struggling to adapt to life in England.
Let’s not forget that Depay is one of the most promising prospects in European football, and that United signed him on the back of an unbelievable season in which he scored 22 league goals to finish as the Eredivisie’s top scorer in a title-winning campaign.
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Not only does the Dutch winger have great pace and fantastic technical ability on the ball, but he’s powerful, full of tricks and makes intelligent runs that stretch opposition defences.
He’s started every single match for Man United so far this season and throughout those games he has shown lots of glimpses of the top-class quality and footballing ability that he possesses.
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He announced himself at Old Trafford in the first leg of United’s crucial Champions League play-off against Club Brugge by scoring two scintillating goals and setting up the other with a superb cross in a match-winning performance.
Despite his unquestionable quality, Depay is young and this means that he’s not going to be able to perform at his best all the time. The problem with this is that the modern game of football is unforgiving and gone are the days where big clubs and managers can give youngsters a season or two in the first-team to find their feet.
Like Adnan Januzaj, Andreas Pereira and James Wilson, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Depay will become a top-class player for Man United. The difference is that Januzaj, Pereira and Wilson are all products of United’s academy whereas the club splashed £31 million to bring Depay to Old Trafford this summer.
This means that Depay, despite probably being in the same phase of development as the likes of Januzaj and Wilson is expected to perform consistently at his best over the course of the season.
However, Depay is yet to score a Premier League goal and his first touch was inadequate against Liverpool, his shooting accuracy was a mile off and his decision-making in the final third was poor. He rarely managed to show his speed, go past players and commit Nathaniel Clyne on United’s left flank, things which Ashley Young and Anthony Martial did do for United in the second half of that game.
Like fellow summer signing Depay, Anthony Martial is also a raw natural talent. Martial’s deadline day move to Old Trafford made him the most expensive teenager in football history and prior to Saturday’s match against Liverpool the French youngster had admitted that with his initial £36 million transfer fee came a great deal of expectation.
Even Van Gaal said in a press conference that the fee was “ridiculous” but Martial stated that he doesn’t feel any pressure or weight on his shoulders.
The 19-year-old starlet provided a real moment of inspiration when he slalomed his way past multiple Liverpool players having come off the bench and scored an incredible individual goal on his debut to seal United’s victory over their bitter rivals.
That was only one game and at just 19 no one can say that Martial will produce that sort of quality every single week, but his debut was all about making a memorable first impression and having a definitive impact on the game and that is exactly what he did.
CAN Depay BE CONSISTENT?
Like all young players, Depay’s form will go up and down during the season, but it’s vitally important that he draws inspiration from his stellar performance against Club Brugge and remembers that he is good enough to play for Manchester United.
Depay endured two losses with the Dutch national team in the recent international break, which has put them on the brink of missing next summer’s European Championships, so he may not have been in the best place mentally in the match against Liverpool.
However, he is a fantastic young talent and I have no doubt that he will recover, fully adapt to his new surroundings and play at his best for United over the coming months.