Vatsal Dani analyses the much anticipated debut of Manchester United’s star signing, Memphis Depay.
The Premier League kicked off this Saturday amidst much fanfare as struggling giants Manchester United welcomed the perennial underperformers in Tottenham Hotspur. The match overall flattered to deceive one and all as it was a damp squib with an own goal deciding the tie. Kyle Walker’s infamous own goal gave Manchester United a winning start to the new campaign as the Reds continue their revival under Louis van Gaal.
Old Trafford witnessed five debuts on Saturday as van Gaal handed a game time to all his summer acquisitions. So after 90 minutes of showtime the jury is out on the most of them. Darmian is being hailed as the bargain of the season while Schneiderlin and Romero are tipped for special things. And Schweinsteiger’s welcome spoke for itself. But we’re here particularly scrutinizing the debut of one of the brightest talents in Europe, Memphis.
The Dutchman was snapped up by United in the close season and is being used as a no.10 by Louis van Gaal. Traditionally, a winger by trade but is versatile enough to play anywhere in the attack. Yesterday was a bittersweet debut for this Dutch prodigy. His debut performance has left the fans divided although the majority is patient enough to give him some time to get himself accustomed to the rigors of Premier League.
Memphis had an exciting preseason where he seemingly built a healthy relationship with his captain and strike partner Wayne Rooney. Throughout the preseason he was deployed as a no.10 or as a support striker. And most certainly, Memphis rarely looked comfortable in that role after playing for majority of his career as a winger.
Despite this, he showed his mettle in preseason where he had a decent outing against Club America. He gradually improved on it against San Jose and Barcelona. Van Gaal retained the same shape for his opening game where Memphis played in the hole between the midfield and Rooney. And it wasn’t a rosy day in office for the 21 year old in all fairness.
He showed his flashes of brilliance by playing some exquisite passes and linking up impressively with Ashley Young in the left sided channel, which destroyed Spurs last time around when these sides met. But the former PSV man didn’t have the same impact as Maraounne Fellaini.
The main reason for Depay’s subdued debut was Pochettino’s shrewd tactical placement of Eric Dier in the heart of midfield alongside Nabil Bentaleb. Dier stuck with the United no.7 throughout his stay on the field and rarely gave him any time on the ball. It was a mouthwatering duel between two young stars, eager to impress both, fans and their respective managers. Dier managed to keep Memphis in check for a considerable chunk of the second half but the Dutchman’s pace and guile became too hot form him to handle in the first half.
The most impressive part of his debut was his work ethic. He always dropped deep to help out his midfield and also filled in for Juan Mata out on the right whenever the Spaniard drifted inward or slotted himself in the centre midfield. His knack of picking up his teammates in better positions was also commendable as he tried to set up both Rooney and Young in the first half. While Young’s effort was parried away, the pass he played to Rooney resulted in the own goal. These were the real highlights of his official Old Trafford debut. He clearly didn’t set the stage on fire but the potential is undeniable. He played with his heart on his sleeve and certainly looked like he means to improve on this subdued debut.
Memphis surely doesn’t look comfortable in creating spaces in the middle of the park nor is he a master at playing defense splitting passes. The Dutchman is more of a flair player who likes to run at the defenders and cut inside from the flanks. He is a traditional winger with bags of tricks and raw pace akin to Cristiano Ronaldo or Ryan Giggs. And undoubtedly he had his best moments when he changed his positions with Juan Mata on the right. At the moment, he surely seems like a square peg in a round hole but things could change dramatically if he quickly adapts to his life in Manchester.
He may not have been quick off the blocks but Memphis surely looks one to watch-out for in the long run. And a lot of it depends on where he is played in the coming games as Van Gaal has spoken openly about his desire to play a 4-3-3 with Rooney as his focal point. A triumvirate of Depay, Rooney and Young (Pedro, if at all he joins!) will be one of the most lethal attacks in England. But if the Dutch coach plans to stick to his 4-2-3-1 then it is going to be a tough debut season for Memphis.
Written by Vatsal Dani
- Analysis | Three Things We Learned: Mumbai City 0-1 Kerala Blasters - January 15, 2018
- Analysis | Three Things We Learned: Mumbai City 1-0 Chennaiyin - December 11, 2017
- Analysis | Three Things We Learned: Mumbai City FC 2-1 FC Goa - November 26, 2017