Since last season, ask any United fan or team member regarding that one thing that has been missing in the team and they will all tell you that it’s a fiery fast striker. Even Van Gaal, at many interviews earlier, stated that Manchester United is lacking “pace on the wings”. Signing Angel Di Maria was supposedly the solution to that particular shortcoming, and letting him go, along with Javier Hernandez, was a huge mistake.
However, no sense dwelling over the past. Fast forward to 2016, and listening to Van Gaal talk about the problems faced by his squad, you’d think that he’s forgotten all about Memphis Depay, who was signed on to be the answer to all the prayers. Last season in Holland, Memphis Depay was everything Van Gaal wanted and United needed – quick, direct and able to score goals from out wide.
Unfortunately, that has not been the solution either. There can be a lot of reasons behind that – perhaps too much was expected off a 21 year old, or maybe Depay, suddenly thrust in the spotlight that surrounds a club of United’s stature in the EPL, was unable to handle the pressure. However, irrespective of the reason, Manchester United would certainly look a lot different if Depay was in the same form he showed at PSV Eindhoven last season when he had 13 goals by the turn of the year. Van Gaal didn’t make matters any better by using Depay as a No.10 throughout the pre-season tour and in the first game of the season against Tottenham. Considering the fact that you’d have your back towards the goal, and with defenders and midfielders swarming all around you, it’s a difficult position to play at the best of times. And that’s what makes it difficult when you’re trying to adapt to the pace and physicality of the EPL.
Depay’s played as a winger since the middle of August and has still only had one really good game, scoring twice against Brugge in the Champions League qualifier at Old Trafford. He was really good and scored in the win at Watford in November but was used as a striker only in the absence of Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial. Otherwise, his best performances have been off the bench – against West Ham and Sheffield United at Old Trafford and in the 3-3 draw with Newcastle on Tuesday.
Unfortunately for Depay, United have won just one of the last eight games in which Depay has started. The last time he was picked in the starting XI, his disastrous header allowed Stoke a goal on Boxing Day and he was substituted at half-time. It was the third time in 19 starts that he’s only lasted 45 minutes and the ninth time he’s been substituted in total.
On the bench against Sheffield United and Newcastle, he won the penalty at Old Trafford on Saturday and created a goal for Wayne Rooney at St James’ Park and a golden chance for Marouane Fellaini.
If things keep progressing this way, it would not be of much help to neither Depay, nor Manchester United.