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Manchester United; a stage too big for some?

Jose Mourinho’s predecessor Louis van Gaal made two of the most exciting signings in the Premier League (in contrast to his football) during the 2015 summer transfer window. The former reds gaffer brought his fellow Dutchman Memphis Depay to Old Trafford whilst also attracting Morgan Schneiderlin of Southampton to Manchester. But, 18 months on, the duo are likely to find their way out of Old Trafford following a lack of opportunities from Mourinho. Upon Memphis’ arrival at Manchester United, Van Gaal said;

“I was forced to handle [the situation] as a manager because, otherwise, he was going to PSG, that’s why I had to sign him and we’ve done it within one day.”

The fact that the deal for the sought-after winger was completed extremely quickly suggested that Van Gaal was eager to have Memphis within his ranks. A player, who presented glimpses of his brilliance at the 2014 FIFA World Cup under Van Gaal, created an elated atmosphere when his signing to United was announced. Even more so when he was given the number seven jersey (after Angel Di Maria’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain), his comparable characteristics to Ronaldo in the form of a swift, right-footed left-winger with a deadly shot on goal, gave United fans a rush of blood which they hadn’t felt for a prolonged period before. Nonetheless, when Memphis was put on the field in the 2015/16 season, sporadic flashes of genius weren’t enough to convince the fans, and manager, that Memphis could become like the legendary Portuguese. With Anthony Martial’s instant impact at the club alongside Rashford’s remarkable rise to the first-team, Memphis dropped lower and lower down Van Gaal’s pecking order.

The summer of 2016 saw Mourinho appointed Manchester United manager. Here, there was a chance for Memphis to impress his manager and state a claim in the starting eleven. An Instagram video here and there through the summer showing Memphis putting in extra training, as a result of his nation Holland unable to qualify for Euro 2016, failed to have the desired effect on the manager. Instead, Mourinho preferred the tried-and-tested talent of Martial on the left of his attacking three, leaving Memphis’ ability on the bench or in the stands. Although, the winger didn’t form much of a response when he was granted his first start under Mourinho at Northampton Town in the EFL Cup, leaving a poor performance after 55 minutes.

On the other hand, Schneiderlin’s departure could be seen as unfortunate for the Frenchman. After establishing himself in central midfield with Southampton, Schneiderlin made the switch to Old Trafford for a fee in the region of £25 million. Simultaneous to the announcement, he said;

“Once I learned that United were interested in signing me, it was a very easy decision to make.”

The former saints man, who was regarded as the long-term replacement to Michael Carrick, was supposedly a good-luck charm during his debut season at the club. From August 2015 to March 2016, United had lost only two of the 26 games he had started whereas when he wasn’t included in the starting line-up they were defeated in eight out of the 18 games. Coincidence? Not according to the stats!

Despite this, Mourinho wasn’t his biggest enthusiast when he took over as manager. The former Chelsea boss didn’t see Schneiderlin as a capable partner of Paul Pogba, and preferred Marouane Fellaini’s sturdy presence in midfield at the start of the season, but has now settled on a trio of Pogba, Carrick, and Ander Herrera to take the reds forward.

So, even though the two talented additions to the club could’ve been given another chance to manifest their attributes to Mourinho and his staff, the high competition for places at Old Trafford means that they’re probably better plying their trade away from Manchester. It is unlikely either will stay at Old Trafford beyond January, with other clubs sniffing the chance to grasp the two. Memphis is a target of Ronald Koeman of Everton, the Toffees manager said;

“I would like to have him. I think he is an interesting player. He has great individual qualities.”

Furthermore, Schneiderlin was subject to a bid from West Bromwich Albion and Jose Mourinho spoke on Friday claiming that the midfielder has asked for a move away from the club, saying;

“Yes. He’s a great professional, a fantastic boy. He’s very honest and very open.

“To be honest, he opened his heart a couple of times, and my answer is simple; if he’s playing regularly with me, I have the right to say ‘no way’. If he’s not playing regularly, I have no right to tell a player who wants to be happy, I have no right to say ‘you are going nowhere’.

“My answer was: if the offer is right, and our board thinks the offer is a good offer in relation to the quality of a very good player like Morgan, then I would not stop him going.”

Whether they prove that they can sustain their form at the highest level remains to be seen.

Written by Shoaib Khan

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