Manchester United struggled for goals and creativity from wide last season. This is a club that, in recent times, has had strong contributions from Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Nani, and the mighty Bebe offering assistance from out wide. United have added Memphis Depay, who should be a huge improvement on the recent performances of others, with potentially more reinforcements to come. Let's take a look at who United start the season with.
Youngy. The Youngster. The Younginantor. The man who had a pigeon plop into his gob. He looked set for an exit at the end of the David Moyes era, having once again defined average performances and average ability. He'd never go missing, he'd just always be there, tiresome and uninspiring, occasionally diving. He'd occupy space inoffensively, which was hugely offensive. When Louis van Gaal arrived, he clearly put the fear of several Gods into Young, and he adapted admirably to a left wing-back position. After that, he kept the floundering Angel Di Maria out of the side, his contributions never falling below a level which required the Argentine to be given another chance. Now, though, he's got a new three-year contract, and competition in Depay. It remains to be seen if he gives up, or fights back. He's got form for both.
Mata is a number 10 in a side that doesn't use him as a number 10, and if United adopt a 4-3-3 formation, then it's a side that doesn't have room for any number 10 at all. Like Young, Mata deserves praise for finding his way to a starting position, teaming up well with Antonio Valencia on his right, and Ander Herrera in midfield. But he doesn't perform in the ideal manner for a right-sided forward in a 4-3-3. He's not fast. Not just not fast enough, but not fast at all. He has the skill and the brain, and when he features in this position he'll again show that he can work with an attacking fullback in Matteo Darmian, and get more out of him than he did the limited Valencia. But Pedro should be here soon, and as a result, he'll be on the bench, or possibly in midfield.
Pedro has experience in being in a side that slides through teams at pace, including his own, and with Herrera and Darmian around him, he should be part of a far more dangerous right hand side for United.
It is a risk to expect too much of Depay in his first season. He has only ever played in the Netherlands, which is not the most exacting league, but there are many reasons for optimism. The improvement in performance from his introduction to his final, title-winning season at PSV is obvious, in terms of confidence, technique, decision-making and goals. He's young enough to expect that to continue, and he has a manager to trust in and console him should he find the higher demands of the Premier League hard to deal with. Nevertheless, he is expect to be the first-choice left winger this season, and faces only the competition of Young, assuming Mata and Pedro occupy the right wing between them. With Depay, Young and Pedro, United finally have the chance to play football at quicker than walking pace.