Saturday 3 December 2016

One goalless Manchester United attacker has an incredibly high opinion of himself

Tom Rooney

Published 05/10/2016 | 17:45

Manchester United's Memphis Depay (left) and Stoke City's Erik Pieters battle for the ball. Photo credit: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Manchester United's Memphis Depay (left) and Stoke City's Erik Pieters battle for the ball. Photo credit: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

In the absence of an ironclad will to win and unwavering self-belief, the chances of any young player progressing to the zenith of football are barely miniscule, but the tempering of one’s ego could also be said to be of equal importance.

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Of the 15 players who arrived at Old Trafford during Louis van Gaal’s indifferent tenure, perhaps only four of them - Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera and Anthony Martial -  have made any meaningful impact at the club.

The contributions of the rest, Sergio Romero, Victor Valdes, Marcos Rojo, Andy Kellett,  Morgan Schneiderlin, Regan Poole, Matteo Darmian, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao and Memphis Depay, have largely veered between forgettable and almost non-existent.

All told, these players cost the club in the region of £250m and, by the end of Van Gaal’s regime, United had an FA Cup to show for it.

But that’s water under the bridge now. The appointment of Jose Mourinho heralded a new day and, for some parties, a clean slate.

Of course, Schweinsteiger was quickly frozen out by the Portuguese and Victor Valdes left for Middlesbrough, but Mourinho, to the great surprise of many, retained the rest of his former mentor’s acquisitions that remained at the club.

Aside from Di Maria, it could be argued that the purchase of Memphis Depay was greeted with the most excitement by the United faithful.

He was a member of Van Gaal’s unheralded Dutch side that progressed to the semi-finals at the last World Cup, before finishing top-goal scorer in the Eredivisie as PSV Einthoven won their 22nd title in 2015.

Following Di Maria’s desperately unfilled season at the club, Depay was bought for roughly €30m and quickly assumed the famed No.7 jersey Antonio Valencia had found too much of a burden.

Indeed, the 22-year-old started brightly by bagging a brace and contributing an assist in the victory of Club Brugge in the Champions League qualifying round.

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In September, he registered in the competition’s group phase during the loss to his old club PSV, and got off  the mark in the Premier League against Sunderland.

But his form dramatically dissipated and, outside of a fine match winner at Watford, he was reduced to bit part roles and rarely distinguished himself.

He made a total of 29 league appearances last season, without making a single assist, and his only goals in 2016 were in each leg against FC Midtjylland in the Europa League.

In the same vein as the likes of Blind, Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata, it did seem improbable that Depay would a player in the Mourinho mould. While the former trio have featured prominently under the former Chelsea boss, the Dutchman has appeared just four times, all of which have been off the bench.

He’s clocked a total of 12 minutes in the league thus far, has not attempted one shot or assisted in any goal.

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Yet, his confidence appears undimmed, as he told De Telegraaf ahead of Holland’s World Cup qualifiers with Belarus and France.

With a strange IT metaphor, Depay said that he regrouped during preseason and that his national coach Danny Blind should have no issues selecting him, despite a dearth of game-time and form.

 “In the summer I turned the knob. Control-Alt-Delete. The coach is not going to go to Manchester to see how I train. And I do not play much, so he does not know how I’m going.

“You know, I’m comfortable in my skin. But I have to play. Now people do not see me, they might think I’m out of practice.

“That is not true. I am confident that it will be fine. That’s good for my career, but also for Oranje. I am worthy of the Dutch team. I believe I can make my contribution here.”

But he wasn’t finished there. Depay also said that he was a kindred spirit of Zlatan Ibrahimović, who has scored at will and won league titles across the continent for the better part of two decades.

 “With Zlatan Ibrahimovic I talk a lot. He has a killer mentality and wants to win everything, even in training. Like me. Therefore, the level is so high. I train with top players.”

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