When he arrived to England, Memphis Depay was one of the hottest prospects in Europe, nowadays he can barely make it into United’s squad for a match and is way behind in the pecking order on the wings. Louis Van Gaal’s dismissal and José Mourinho’s arrival hasn’t changed a great deal of the Dutchman’s situation at Old Trafford.
When Manchester United announced the signing of Memphis Depay, we can safely say that the vast majority of United fans were excited. A new player! An exciting player! A player with actual pace! After one lackluster season under Louis Van Gaal’s tutelage, the idea of a player who was familiar with his methods and who came from a very successful season in the Eredivisie with PSV Eindhoven, who had a knack of scoring lots of goals and a grand set of skills to terrorize defences, was, at least, appealing.
Well, one year from his signing, the Dutchman is still a question mark at Old Trafford. His start at the club was encouraging against Club Brugge in a Champions League playoff, but the former PSV man never kicked on from that and after being played out of position and spending time on the bench as well as, let’s be honest, some awful performances, he was the subject of some fairly deserved criticism. It didn’t help matters that his possible rivals for the position of left winger, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, had amazing seasons while doing what everyone expected of him: being the focal point of the attack and providing the kind of excitement that United fans desire.
When Van Gaal left the club and José Mourinho arrived, it was thought that this would mean another chance for Depay to prove his worth and show that he was another casualty of his compatriot’s ill-fated philosophy. But time went by and we barely got to see him on the pitch, with the new boss preferring other players. And while the talk since his arrival has been about what is best for Manchester United regarding this Dutch starlet, maybe we should see things from Memphis’ perspective: it’s best for him to leave this club.
Memphis Depay came to the club as one of Europe’s hottest young properties and as a potentially world class player, after a sensational season in the Netherlands and at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It’s true that most players suffered under Van Gaal, but Memphis’ performances only improved when he was facing lesser opposition like Club Brugge or FC Midtjylland. With Mourinho’s guidance, it has been a pretty similar scenario.
To make matters worse for Depay, every other option in his position brings something to the table that he doesn’t at this point of his career: Jesse Lingard, while certainly not as consistent as one would desire, has much better work rate and movement off the ball; Anthony Martial is faster, has a great knack of scoring goals and is a constant threat to his full back (but we admit he hasn’t performed that well this season); Henrikh Mkhitaryan has pace and vision for a deadly pass; Juan Mata is like a slower version of the Armenian in many senses and much more consistent than the Depay; and Marcus Rashford has been simply outstanding since his debut in February. Even Ashley Young provides cover in several positions, he is an important figure in the dressing room — he took Patrice Evra’s place as the team’s DJ, for example — and doesn’t mind being a squad player. Depay just doesn’t offer any of that (but he can certainly piss off many journalists and fans with his car collection). The truth of the matter is that United not only have better options, but they don’t really need Depay at this point; they have many capable players and it seems likely that Mourinho would want to sign one or two players of his liking for the wings, if he stays for the next couple of seasons.
There were rumors of AC Milan wanting Memphis, which is not the worst of choices, if we are honest: Vicenzo Montella is an offensive minded manager, and the Italian doesn’t have many top wingers considering that possibly his best player, Giacomo Bonaventura, is playing centrally these days. Milan need a footballer like an in-form Depay with attributes. Besides, the possibility of changing clubs allows him to breathe a different kind of air and perhaps feel freer. It’s fair to say that Depay’s awful form is because of a mental issue and United had too many footballers with fragile characters in the last seasons — the club is not in a place of stability to wait for the Dutchman to pick himself up. So it’s best for everyone involved to cut their losses and move on; it just wasn’t meant to be.