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Memphis Depay seeking a transfer from Lyon. Could a second chance at Old Trafford work for him?

Former Manchester United winger Memphis Depay has reportedly issued a come and get me plea with supposed interest from Premier League side Everton and La Liga side Barcelona this summer. The Dutchman seems to be a much changed player following his 18-month spell at United which started under the reign of Louis van Gaal and ended under the reign of Jose Mourinho about six months into the Portuguese managers spell at the club, which also ended in tears, like his predecessor.

Lyon reached the UEFA Champions League semi-finals last season and were beaten 3-0 by the eventual champions, Bayern Munich. During the 2019/20 season, despite the fact that the coronavirus pandemic ended up cancelling the Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 seasons in France, Depay made a total of 22 appearances, scoring 15 goals and two assists. It was a standout season for the Dutchman He played his first match for his club during the 2020/21 season against Dijon on Friday, scoring a hat-trick in the 4-1 victory.

Before United signed Depay, he was playing for PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands and made a total of 124 appearances, scoring 50 goals and 29 assists, which is the reason he was signed by Van Gaal in the summer of 2015 but it did not work for him at United with just 53 appearances, scoring seven goals and six assists, which was poor considering what he had achieved in the Netherlands. At Lyon, he had made a total of 139 appearances, scoring 57 goals and 43 assists. Depay spoke to the media after Friday’s victory over Dijon with The Sun quoting him as saying:

“I do not see the future, I do not know if I will do the full season here. I have been here for four years, I became captain.

“After you have to look at your career, there is no Champions League. At the moment I don’t know. I’m really happy to have scored three goals today.

“It wasn’t the best game I’ve played but we start the season with three points, and that’s the most important thing.”

I liked Depay as a player when he signed for United. He seemed to be the missing piece at the time, based on his performances, goals and assists whilst at PSV and the fact that he was the defining player in their league title for the 2014/15 season. However, despite this he hugely faltered at United and became a player that was more frustrated than anything else. The playing style of the club was not the greatest and not to Depay’s strengths, which might have been the main problem.

When Mourinho arrived at the club, Depay already had a mark over him and for a new manager, it meant that if it did not work, he was likely to be moved on quickly, which is what happened. In January 2017, Mourinho allowed the player to be sold to Lyon for £16 million, which could rise to £21.7 million according to the Telegraph. His contract in France ends in the summer of 2021, so this will be the clubs last major chance to get some money for him with him able to sign a pre-contract agreement for a foreign club from January.

Could Depay be a player that United could utilise under the management of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer? Granted, the 26-year-old would fit into the attack dominated playing style and his pace and ability would be seen as a positive but with the performances of Anthony Martial (23 goals, 12 assists), Marcus Rashford (22 goals, 10 assists) and Mason Greenwood (17 goals, five assists) I doubt that he would be anything other than a squad player under Solskjaer. It would have been good to see him succeed at United but it did not happen, probably for the reasons stated and could see him fail again.

Written by John Walker

Memphis Depay used analytics company to plot perfect transfer away from Manchester United – reports

Memphis Depay signed for Manchester United in the summer of 2015 for just over £30 million, coming from Dutch team PSV Eindhoven, the same club that Ruud van Nistelrooy signed from all those years before. The young Dutch winger was immediately a hit at the club based on his exploits for his club during the 2014/15 season.

During the 2014/15 season at PSV, the winger made a total of 40 appearances for the club, playing in the Eredivisie, the UEFA Europa League (from the qualifying rounds) and in the KNVB Beker. He scored 28 goals and eight assists for his club, who were crowned the champions that season, a good exit for the winger.

His first season at United did not see him reach the same dizzy heights but after making a total of 45 appearances in all competitions; the Premier League, UEFA Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup, and the League Cup – scoring just seven goals and six assists (although he had three more assists in one game at U21 level).

During the 2016/17 season, after the sacking of Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho was named the manager of the club. Memphis played just eight times in the first half of the season, scoring no goals or assists and in January 2017, he left the club for Lyon making 18 appearances, scoring five goals and eight assists, for just £16 million, possibly £22 million with add-ons, which is still a loss for the apparent ‘next best thing’.

Giels Brouwer, who works for analytics company SciSports, has revealed that Memphis enlisted his services to find the best club for him after United, seemingly looking to get his career back on track. Confirming this on Reddit, which may or may not have been the best thing to do, it was explained why this something the player utilised, saying:

“Memphis made the first laptop transfer by asking us for transfer advice with data.

“The agent asked us to visit Memphis in Manchester where he was living at that moment.

“I went there with two colleagues and we watched a Champions League game on his couch.

“In our discussion about the next step in his career, he was really open about what he wanted and didn’t want.

“He wanted to play ‘more freely’, he wanted to be ‘important for the team’ and wanted to play in a big five competition with a coach that had a clear playing style.

“We looked for instance at his playing style at PSV and the Dutch national team and compared that with the playing style of Manchester United.

“We noticed that he was involved with a lot more defensive actions at Manchester United.

“Regarding importance of the team, we looked for teams who didn’t have their star player on LW or LCF.

“For playing style, we investigated consistency, speed of passing and transition, use of flanks and defensive line, the height of the defenders.

“In the end, we wrote a report with five potential clubs that would suit his playing style and Lyon was one of them.

“Of course, it is up to the agent and the club to make a deal as our work ends there.”

Since signing for Lyon in January 2017, Memphis has made a total of 134 appearances for the club, scoring 53 goals and 43 assists. His goalscoring and assist rate is similar to what it was at PSV, despite playing ten more time in France, therefore helping the player restore his career to the same standards as it was before signing for United.

However, because of the coronavirus pandemic, Memphis could exit the French club this summer as they have failed to qualify for European football for the first time in 23 years. It was a shame the player did not quite make it at United, despite some great signs of him being the next best thing the season before he first played for the Old Trafford club.

It would be safe to say that United would not be interested in resigning the player, having moved on considerably from the club they were five years ago when the Dutchman signed for Louis van Gaal’s side. He has seemingly done a lot of work to find the right club for him, which does seem a brainy thing to do. Perhaps he will do the same again?

The curse of the Manchester United number seven; 37 goals scored in a decade!

This summer will mark ten years since Cristiano Ronaldo left Manchester United, something that was devastating at the time but also something most came to terms with. Ronaldo was just another top player to wear the famous number seven shirt at the Old Trafford club. Players such as George Best, Steve Coppell, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, and David Beckham all wore this magical shirt number.

Just mentioning six names brings a total of 633 goals with these players, although not all the time (for some), wearing the famous number seven shirt. Best scored 179 goals in 470 appearances. Coppell scored 70 goals in 396 appearances. Robson scored 99 goals in 461 appearances. Cantona scored 82 goals in 185 appearances. Beckham scored 85 goals in 394 appearances. Ronaldo scored 118 goals in 292 appearances.

In the last ten years since Ronaldo left, United has had five different players wearing the famous shirt but the magic seems to have worn off. Michael Owen wore the shirt from the 2009/10 season until the 2011/12 season. Antonio Valencia, switching from the number 25 shirt, wore it from the 2012/13 season until the 2013/14 season. Angel Di Maria wore it for the 2014/15 season, then Memphis Depay for the 2015/16 season, until he left in January 2017. It was vacant for a year before Alexis Sanchez arrived at the club.

Post-Ronaldo, just 15 Premier League goals have been scored by players wearing the famous number seven shirt. That is just 1.5 goals per year. It is also not good enough, considering the players who have worn the shirt, at least more recently. Owen actually scored a total of 17 goals in the shirt, just five of them in the Premier League.

Valencia scored four goals, two of them in the Premier League. Di Maria scored four goals in total. Memphis scored seven goals in total, two of them in the Premier League. Sanchez has scored five goals so far, just three in the Premier League.

After Ronaldo, it was always going to be hard to fill that shirt. Ronaldo was not so keen on wearing the shirt in 2003 when he replaced Beckham in the squad but Sir Alex Ferguson suggested he was ready to wear it. Two years into his career at the club, he was right. Ronaldo was born to wear that shirt. When you add up the figures, players to wear this shirt have actually scored a total of 37 goals in a decade.

Ronaldo, however, has scored 332 league goals (La Liga and Serie A) in the same period, a total of 478 goals in all competitions. That just shows the player he was and the size of the hole he left in the Unted squad when he left for Real Madrid. Could this be a period in time where United lost their ability to replace and develop talent? Or is it just because of the owners of the club, the Glazers, not wanting to spend and only cashing in and servicing a debt they placed on the club?

The thing is though, none of the players to wear that number seven shirt after Ronaldo has been worth anything. Of course, Valencia changed his number from 25 to seven, then changed it back after it became a burden on him. Di Maria came to the club with supporters having high hopes but he became a snake and used United to get to Paris Saint-Germain. Memphis was a prospect who has shone in the Netherlands but failed to do much at United, or beyond for that matter.

Then came Sanchez, a player who had been one of Arsenal’s best since signing for them in the summer of 2014, scoring a goal on average every two matches (166 appearances, 80 goals), spending three and a half years at the club. 18 months into his United career, having scored just five goals, thill three adrift of the total he scored for Arsenal in his last six months at the club. It would suggest that the number seven shirt at Manchester United has become more of a curse than a magical number.

How can the club turn this around? Stop signing players who could become marketing tools for the club. Di Maria, Memphis to a point and definitely Sanchez have all been signed with marketing being a major factor in them coming to the Theatre of Dreams. Sanchez’s arrival saw a simple video of him mime playing the piano, which executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward still brags about today.

Imagine a football club bragging about a social media post as many other clubs would brag about winning a major competition. Social Media has little to do with Manchester United and should not play a major factor. What should be prevalent is football being the priority. If it has been done well, as has been done in the past, the marketing will run itself. If you have to market the club, the way Woodward and the Glazers have shows the flaws at the club and the difficulty of overturning that.

Until Manchester United is run like a football club again, the curse of the number seven will grow, it will spread to other things and before you know it, the club will have fallen into depths it has never been at before. How long is this going to be accepted?

Memphis Depay: The number seven that got away

On the 19th May 2018, Memphis Depay, the one-time Manchester United winger scored a hat-trick in his side, Lyon’s 3-2 victory over Nice. It was a victory which secured Lyon’s place in next season’s UEFA Champions League as they finished in the final qualifying spot, a single point ahead of Marseille. These goals also ensured that Memphis, as he prefers to be called, finished as Lyon’s top goal-scorer for 2017-18 with 22 goals in all competitions.

Memphis’s performances in 2017-18 awakened memories of his outstanding 2014-15 season with PSV Eindhoven, wherein he also finished as top goal-scorer, for the entire league, not just his club, as he assisted PSV in winning their first Eredivisie title in seven years. Memphis was one of the most exciting prospects in Europe and generated interest throughout the continent’s biggest clubs.

On the 12th June 2015, Manchester United announced his signing, for a fee of approximately £25 million. He was a United fan’s dream player – arrogant, dynamic and a scorer of fabulous goals. Memphis had the ego United fans love. Not one to be overawed, he chose to wear the iconic number seven shirt, previously worn by such legendary United stars as George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.

It was a commercial dream for Ed Woodward and the Glazer family, as it became the third highest selling shirt in World Football behind only multiple Ballon d’Or winners, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. United saw the then-21-year-old as an exciting prospect with his peak ahead of him. Memphis demonstrated his dynamic skills with a stunning brace of goals in United’s Champions League play-off round fixture at Old Trafford, in a 3-1 victory over Belgium’s Club Brugge.

He instantly put together an exciting partnership on the left flank with left full back, Luke Shaw. This was derailed, however, on the 15th September 2015, in United’s first fixture in the Champions League proper against Memphis’s former employer, PSV. In a match in which Memphis also scored, Shaw suffered a devastating double leg fracture which side-lined him for the rest of the season. Without Shaw behind him, Memphis’s form tailed off and despite scoring the opener in a 3-0 win over Sunderland on the 26th September, he soon found himself out of the team.

Memphis was given a rare reprieve amidst a United injury crisis and was chosen to start the league game against Watford on the 21st November. Memphis repaid the faith with a goal in a 2-1 win but the rest of his performance was mixed. He was constantly amidst the action but looked like he was trying too hard to impress. United manager Louis Van Gaal was unmoved and Memphis did not win back a regular starting berth for the remainder of the season.

Hopes were high during summer 2016 that Memphis would re-discover the form that convinced United to sign him a year earlier, with Jose Mourinho now installed as manager. It wasn’t to be. Memphis played just 20 minutes of Premier League football under his new manager and requested a move in the January 2017 transfer window. What was clear, however, is that Mourinho, despite not selecting Memphis for the majority of his match day squads did see potential in the Dutch star, as evidenced by the insertion of a buy-back clause in his Lyon contract.

Memphis’s spell at Lyon demonstrates the talent is still there. Two months after signing for the French club, he awakened memories of another former United number seven with a stunning strike from the half way line versus Toulouse. Inevitably drawing comparisons with Beckham’s 1996 wonder goal against Wimbledon, in a respectful touch, Memphis when asked about the comparison played it down, believing he could not compare with such a legend.

With a more mature head on his shoulders Memphis is now delivering week in and week out. So much so, if reports are to be believed, he is attracting interest from seven-time European Champions, AC Milan, which would be a fourth country’s league in as many years he could gain experience competing in. It makes Memphis an attractive proposition for a return to United down the road. If he continues this rich vein of form with other top European clubs, he could become a superstar for years to come. He is still only 24 years old.

It is easy to wonder now whether Mourinho should have given the young winger more opportunities in 2016-17. Had he stuck with him, United might well have been more effective on the flanks last season, preventing the need to dip into the transfer market for a winger this summer as they also did last summer when Mourinho unsuccessfully pursued Inter Milan wide man, Ivan Perisic.

It’s no secret United are in desperate need of wide players, as evidenced by their continual chopping and changing of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Alexis Sanchez, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard who were deployed on each wing during 2017-18 to decidedly mixed success. Should Mourinho have refused Memphis’s transfer request in January 2017? Probably not. Memphis wanted to leave and his confidence was low after his United tenure turned sour. His subsequent regeneration at Lyon has been a joy to watch.

Besides, Mourinho may have done United a favour. If Memphis should one day return as a result of the contract clause, he would undoubtedly be welcomed back with open arms. He is still well-regarded by the club and fan-base. He would return as a much more consistent and experienced player. Memphis’s 2017-18 performances show he could be considered as the number seven that got away. Perhaps though with that buy-back clause, this prodigious talent could yet fulfill his potential as a modern-day United legend.

copyright: JW