Memphis Depay’s struggles with the Number 7 shirt

After starring in PSV Eindhoven’s championship winning campaign where he bagged 22 goals in 30 appearances, Memphis Depay’s career has somewhat stalled since taking on the legendary number 7 shirt at Old Trafford.

The Dutchman took Eredivisie by storm which resulted in PSV securing the championship after a seven-year wait and in doing stopped rivals Ajax from winning their fifth title in a row. Whilst Memphis was not the only PSV player who had a great season – both Luuk de Jong and midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum were prolific, he was the stand-out player and ended the season as one of Europe’s most sort-after players.

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Manchester United did well to sign the winger in the summer of 2015 as many of Europe’s elite were in for his signature including French champions Paris Saint-Germain. The £31 million price-tag that United paid for the winger has yet to be justified with some fans mystified by many of his erratic performances in his first season in English football.

Memphis is obviously a player that possesses a lot of talent but the difference in quality between the Dutch Eredivisie and the Premier League has been evident in his on-field struggles. In an interview, the player himself admitted that he has struggled with the pace, strength and less time on the ball in England. Memphis summed it up when he admitted that there is simply nowhere to hide in English football.

“It wasn’t necessary to be on top of my game every match [in Holland]. When playing in the Premier League, you have to. You are pushed to get the most out of yourself. Good just isn’t enough when playing for United.” – Memphis Depay

Although the 22-year-old shined against Danish outfit FC Midtjylland in the Europa League which were arguably his best performances in a United shirt, he has more often than not left fans and team-mates alike frustrated with his erratic and often one-dimensional play – defenders quickly realised that he likes to cut in off the wing in order to take a shot and adapted their game to nullify this treat. His lack of form even resulted in being dropped over the New Year period even with Louis van Gaal juggling an injury crisis at the club.

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Admittedly, he has shown flashes of brilliance during his maiden campaign in English football including a delightful touch to control the ball with his heel against Arsenal in the 3-2 Old Trafford victory but he hasn’t done anywhere near enough to convince the Old Trafford faithfully that he can live up to the label of ‘the new Ronaldo’.

There are also murmurs that the club are unhappy a Memphis’ behaviour off the pitch, especially after he arrived at training on separate occasions driving a brand new Rolls Royce and Hummer. Many believe the winger isn’t fully concentrating on his job and duties at Old Trafford which in some part can go to explaining his poor performances in the iconic shirt.

In Ryan Giggs, who was not an angel in his youth at Old Trafford, Memphis has a wonderful mentor; a former wild-child who knows what it takes to succeed at the club after dominating the left-wing for United during his 24-year playing career. Memphis will need to take on all of Gigg’s words of wisdom if he is going to fulfil his undoubted potential and avoid suffering the same fate as Nani who finally left the club for Fenerbahçe without ever truly making an impression in the red half of Manchester.

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If Memphis needs inspiration to succeed in English football as a youngster, he doesn’t need to look too far outside of the north-west. City rival Raheem Sterling made himself into one of the Premier League’s most feared attackers during his time with Liverpool whereas Romelu Lukaku has developed into one of Europe’s most powerful strikers at Everton after a highly disappointing spell at Chelsea when he first arrived in England.

Whether Memphis can be a success at Old Trafford remains to be seen, but if he knuckles down and finally finds his feet in English football, Louis van Gaal and Manchester United will have a truly talented footballer on their team-sheet.

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