Memphis In Manchester: A Tale Of Mismanagement, Bad Timing and Wasted Talent

Memphis Depay made 53 appearances for Manchester United over a season and a half.

When Memphis Depay landed in England ahead of his move to Manchester United, he arrived with a reputation for exaggerated flair, immense self-confidence and, naturally, a heck of a lot of talent.

United saw off well-documented competition from the likes of Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain to Depay’s signature for a fee of around £31 million, helping to create a buzz of hysteria that many at Old Trafford that scarcely few players in world football can justify. That hysteria would only grow further once Memphis donned the infamous red no.7 jersey for United.

It all should have been a natural fairytale that we’re all still enjoying now, with Memphis now arguably in the peak prime of his career.

Instead, Memphis has been plying his trade for French side Lyon since 2017 after being frozen out of the United team by two separate managers and the English game can only marvel at the Dutchman’s feats from afar.

How did we come to this exactly? Let’s take a look at Memphis Depay’s time in Manchester, how it evaporated seemingly right in front of him and why a combination of mismanagement, bad timing and wasted talent all played their part in conspiring against him.

Memphis played under both Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho during his time at United.

When you have a flair-based, enigmatic individual in your side such as Memphis, man-management really is vital. During Memphis’ time in Manchester, he was managed by two of the best tacticians of the modern age, but they certainly weren’t well known for their man-management skills.

Individuals such as Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho are known for constructing sides around mentally strong and reliable individuals; they rarely have time for individuals they regard as ‘flakey’, a word that was banded around a lot during Memphis’ time in Manchester.

Not only that, but it’s become painfully clear in the world of football recently that certain players do indeed thrive better when they’re strategically rotated in and out of a side. Taking an over-worked, under-performing Memphis out of the Manchester United team might have been a strategic masterclass by either one of his managers, however it was more often the case of Memphis being dropped in and out of the side seemingly whenever he could be presented as a scapegoat.

Memphis was undone by the emergence of players in the same position as him.

Memphis arrived at a time in Manchester United history where the club were reeling, and the team’s managers were truly feeling the heat. Whilst they might have had a future Galatico on their hands at the time, neither Louis Van Gaal nor Jose Mourinho had the time or the results spare to accommodate someone like Memphis.

What’s more, his start to a United career coincided with the emergence of two individuals who remain a cornerstone of the side even now: Anthony Martial, and Marcus Rashford. Both players were capable of playing in Memphis’ preferred positions, and proved to be much more solid choices for their under-fire respective managers.

It’s clear that someone like Memphis thrives on knowing that he is a side’s main man, that he will be backed by his manager and given the time and minutes to develop his game. At Manchester United however, it was clear that the Dutchman would be subjected to the exact opposite kind of treatment.

Memphis celebrating against Watford in 2015

Memphis a genuinely world class talent, no denying that whatsoever. His brief stint in Manchester remains the one blip on an otherwise fantastically successful career. His goalscoring record at Lyon since United has done wonders in restoring his stock and standing in the footballing world back to where it was previously, which is great to see.

There’s no denying that Manchester United could have their whole side currently revolving around Memphis right now, had certain choices and scenarios been handled differently by the powers that be.

Whilst certain United fans, as well as football fans such as myself in general, would love to see a return to the Premier League for Memphis, I think it’s unlikely our English game is ever likely to truly see it happen, which certainly leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

By all accounts, Memphis is a fantastic athlete and a model professional. He didn’t part United on bad terms with the club, fans or manager, and his occasional pro-United tweets and comments show that he doesn’t hold any grudges. It’s a fascinating conundrum trying to work out what Manchester United would look like with Memphis in their lineup, but is almost certainly a discussion for another article.

The guardian of Stamford Bridge. #GloryHuntingDays. Will forever be haunted by the Shevchenko signing.

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