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Memphis Depay: Right player, wrong time?

In June 2015 Manchester United announced the signing of Memphis Depay from PSV Eindhoven for a reported fee of £31 million, at the age of 21 Depay said; ‘This is a dream come true for me, a new chapter in my life and one that I am looking forward to’, as reported by BBC Sport.

Things could not have looked better for the youngster, he had been brought to the club by Louis Van Gaal, a manager he had played under for his national team of the Netherlands, and he was seemingly ready to take the next step in his career. 

In his first season at the club Depay made 45 appearances across all competitions, scoring seven goals and getting six assists. While these stats are not abysmal, it is safe to say United fans were hoping for more from a player who cost £31 million and came with a big reputation. 

Things unfortunately went from bad to worse for the winger after the sacking of Louis van Gaal in May of 2016, mere days after securing the FA Cup for United, as reported by BBC Sport. United hired manager Jose Mourinho, a serial winner, but a manager known for putting his trust in veteran players instead of youth, players such as Depay had reason to be concerned. 

Under Mourinho, Depay only played a total of 134 minutes across all competitions, this was nowhere near enough time for the attacker to prove his ability and the player made no attacking returns during this time

It was clear that the manager had no interest in Depay, so when it was announced in January of 2017 that Depay had been sold to French side Lyon for a fee that could rise to £21.7 million, as reported by Sky Sports, it was no surprise for United fans. The young Dutchman’s time and United had come to a disappointing end. 

In the remainder of the 2016/17 season, Depay made an impact at Lyon, making 18 appearances, scoring five goals and getting eight assists. Already, Depay had matched the amount of attacking contributions he made in 18 months at United in under six months in Ligue 1. 

Of course, it must be noted here that Ligue 1 is a much slower league than the Premier League, and for an expressive winger like Depay, this tempo can highlight the strengths of their game while failing to expose their weaknesses.

Players who have failed to make an impact in the Premier League have gone to the French league and looked like world beaters, such as United flop Angel Di Maria. 

In the following season, however, Depay came into his own, making 51 appearances across all competitions, scoring 22 goals and getting 17 assists. He was the talisman of a Lyon side that finished third in the league that season, being their top goal scorer and assister in the league with 19 goals and 13 assists. Depay had seemingly found his feet and was fulfilling his potential.  

The winger maintained steady numbers in his next three seasons at the club, and in his final season for the club in 2020/21 Depay scored 22 goals and 12 assists in 40 appearances. Once again, this season, the winger finished as Lyons top goal scorer and top assister in the league, with 20 goals and 12 assists respectively

It seemed as though Depay had done all he could in France, he had proven the player he can be when given the room to grow and express himself, something we has not given towards the end of this time at United. 

In the summer of 2021, after developing his game in France, it was announced that Depay would sign for Spanish giant Barcelona, with his contract at Lyon coming to an end. This was the move that the winger had been waiting for, a big club in a tough league and regular Champions League football to match the performances he had consistently been putting in at Lyon. 

After the departure of talisman Lionel Messi in the summer of 2021, immense responsibility had landed on the shoulders of Depay, however, he seems to be dealing with the pressure much better than he did as a youngster at United, scoring five goals and having two assists to his name already across all competitions.

For United fans, it is a bittersweet sight to see Depay succeed at a club like Barcelona, it proves that the young winger their club signed in 2015 could have blossomed into a crucial player for the club if he had been given the time to bed into a tough league. 

The Dutchman now mainly plays as a centre forward, a position United have filled with ageing, but elite strikers, in Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani. Perhaps, in time, Depay would have proven a better investment than Anthony Martial, who is still at the club and plays in the same positions but has not fulfilled his potential since signing in the same summer as Depay. 

Depay seems to be a case of right player, wrong time. Had he signed for Lyon from PSV instead of making the huge jump at such a young age to a club as big as United, he could still be at the club today and making an impact. Instead, United fans can be happy to see a former player succeed at the top level, even if his form begs the question, ‘what if?’. 

Written by Jennifer McCord

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?

copyright: JW