Memphis Depay’s future poses an interesting first challenge for incoming Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho.
Stifled by the system of Louis van Gaal, Depay has really struggled to adapt to life at Old Trafford. Seemingly crippled by the pressure, it has been a tough first nine months or so for the former PSV man who arrived with a reputation as a goal-scoring winger – a troublesome, powerful dribbler and free-kick specialist. That is just a distant memory now.
Having been sapped of his confidence and looking like a man who would rather be elsewhere, Depay was even left out of the FA Cup final squad; he has got a long way to go to prove he can cut it at United.
The reputation of his club has similarly tumbled, like a young Cristiano Ronaldo at the lightest of shoulder barges, but with Mourinho replacing Van Gaal there is renewed optimism.
So should Depay share it?
The Dutchman’s perceived arrogance has been an under-lying problem. Mourinho will need to understand the personality of Depay to truly get the best from him.
His incredible title-winning campaign with PSV was largely down to the freedom given to Depay and his team-mates. They played with a collective imagination, a relaxed approach that Van Gaal did not afford his side.
Unfortunately for the Moordrecht-born star, Mourinho does not exactly have a history of encouraging free spirits so a change in outlook by either player or manager is required for the Dutchman to reignite his career at Old Trafford.
Should United want to sell they would certainly have no chance of recouping anywhere near the fee they splashed out last summer (believed to be around £25 million). Maybe then, Mourinho would be better off trying to nurture the talent at his disposal.
Taking a punt on a player is not a black and white decision. It’s not a matter of spinning a wheel and seeing if Depay ends up like Bebe or Cristiano Ronaldo. It is more like a poker game – plan ahead, make the right choices, invest carefully and it should work out how you want.
Depay’s talent has not vanished, he is still the player that he was at PSV Eindhoven who can terrorise defenders. What he needs is a manager who shows a bit of faith and can unlock that free spirit and playing a style that allows for his individualistic threat.
He is certainly not going to end up like Bebe. An unknown entity when United spent big on him, the Portuguese flop had only ever looked a talent in the Portuguese Second Division with Estrela da Amadora.
Depay was the leading figure as PSV stormed to the 2014-15 Eredivisie title – we’re talking about a player more proven than Cristiano Ronaldo was when he first arrived at Old Trafford.
Depay is four years older than Ronaldo was when he joined United but at just 22 years old, he should not be written off.
There is no benefit of moving Depay on this summer. It would be a loss financially and, with the ability Depay unquestionably has, they risk suffering the same embarrassment that Chelsea have faced with the sales of Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku.
The opportunity to develop one of the most promising players in the world should be a mouth-watering one for Mourinho, who will need to accept that Depay needs time and perhaps a little help with positional discipline.
Depay has all the tools and the cocksure nature that is such a staple for top wingers. Now he just needs the support and patience of his manager to make it at the highest level. The prospect of a Rashford-Martial-Depay frontline is a tantalising one. The Dutchman will certainly be hoping Jose Mourinho sees it that way.
Finally, a reminder of that man Ronaldo…
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