Memphis Depay has departed Manchester United for French side Lyon. Depay has made just 16 Premier League starts, scoring two goals, in what must be one of the worst cases of unrealized potential the Premier League has ever seen.
Life at United started with a bang for Memphis Depay with two goals against Belgian side Brugge in a Champions League qualifier. It seemed written in the stars, United had found a new superstar. Having come second to United’s current young prodigy Paul Pogba in the Best Young Player award at the 2014 World Cup and under the tutelage of incoming United manager Louis Van Gaal, everything seemed in place for Depay to tear through the Premier League.
Depay had finished life at PSV as the Eredivisie’s top scorer, earning the prestigious Johan Cruyff Trophy in the process. He had drawn comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo. The most prominent names in Dutch football Van Gaal, Guus Hindink, Marco Van Basten and Ronald Koeman all stated their belief at one time or another that Depay would become ‘the best in the world’.
The above video shows Depay’s undoubted potential. It also shows just how poor the Dutch league is. For every powerful long-range strike there’s a defender standing five to ten yards off with no intention of closing down. Depay canters through defenders so inept the thought of touch-tight tackling in any meaningful way or even fouling the young winger seems alien.
In just Depay’s second league game for United, away to Aston Villa, alarm bells started to ring. Villa were already earmarked for their eventual relegation. Depay was up against Leandro Bacuna, a winger deployed as emergency cover at right back. Depay couldn’t get the better of him in any fashion for the whole game. His muscular frame made him look sluggish but didn’t seem to help when it came to shoulder-to-shoulder challenges or shielding the ball.
For such a young player, a bedding-in period is normal in the Premier League, but Depay never seemed to make any progress. Instead of concentrating on getting the simple things right, the five yard pass, beating the first man with crosses, testing the ‘keeper with shots, Depay insisted on going for the spectacular.
Constantly losing possession trying to commit full backs and ballooning shots into the stand is how he will be remembered by the United faithful. Showboating against Midtjylland, an audacious back-heel touch against Arsenal, the fact that these pretty meaningless moments stand out from Depay’s time at the club show just how ineffective he was.
The French league will be more forgiving, Depay could possibly flourish there. But without a late spurt in maturity he will never come even close to making true the predictions of that line of great Dutch masters.