Memphis Depay arrived at Old Trafford as the all-singing all-dancing face of the Eredivise. He’d been labelled more than once as the ‘New Cristiano Ronaldo’. He had come through the ranks at PSV to finish 2015 as top scorer in the Eredivise, scoring 22 times in the league and 4 in the Europa cup. Memphis had also navigated himself a healthy first world cup just as the wheels started to come off the rapidly greying Dutch national attack. So what could possibly have gone wrong at Old Trafford? And what can United do to ensure they don’t splash out another £30 million on a huge flop?
The dumbly obvious answer is not buying a player who requires the same support as a Cristiano Ronaldo. Current wisdom is there’s only one player who will deliver anything like the same results. And he’s at Barcelona. United have never been scared of going above and beyond to support unusual talents, take Cantona, Best, Ronaldo or Van Nistelrooy. Those guys had to deliver big time, in ways Memphis never seemed close to capable. But why wasn’t he?
Memphis Depay led a charmed life at PSV
Memphis Depay’s usage rate was too high. What usage boils down to is how a team’s possession is finally used. Roughly translated it means how much of the final ball you get as a percentage of your team’s overall possession. At PSV, Memphis got about 20% playing as a wide forward sometimes 23%. This was incredibly high. He was by the most likely pass from the PSV midfield by a country mile. This wasn’t ever going to be the case at United. With forwards like Rooney and Mata playing alongside him, Depay’s usage dropped by almost half to 12%. It affected his game in huge ways.
Depay only managed 28 take-ons last season, far less than the 80 odd he had made for PSV the previous season. He only created 12 chances in the Premiership, making no assists. He managed 2 goals in his first season.
Memphis Depay wasn’t a team player or a stand out talent
Maybe they shouldn’t have given him the hallowed number 7 shirt? The 7 isn’t usually over-tasked with defensive duties at United and maybe this went to the Dutchman’s head a tad. Coming on against sides like Newscastle, you’d see him wandering aimlessly on the left. He was waiting for that killer pass, totally ignoring his defensive duties. This is the hallmark of a player who’s been singled out by a former club for greatness. Players like Robinho and Ben Arfa have struggled with pretty much the same issues after big moves. Worse for United was how much extra work the players around him need to do to compensate when he was playing. Defenders like Darmian were left woefully exposed. It cost the team time and again to have him strolling back to his own half in times when he was badly needed.
United’s call to cut their losses and ditch Memphis is very different to how they treated Ronaldo. The Portuguese star’s first season was a frustrating mix of gloriously talented moments following by infuriating naivety. But, the hard work put in by both player and team rapidly elevated him to a world class player. United wouldn’t ever commit the same effort into developing Memphis Depay out of his over-dependence on 20+% usage maybe because of Mourinho’s ideas on team effort or simply because he simple never showed the promise of a young Ronaldo. Either way, United are less than likely to splash out on an inefficient talent quite as fast next time.
Featured Image: Reuters