On the face of it, Memphis Depay is precisely what Manchester United need this summer. Pacy, direct and unafraid to shoot, he’s one of the Eredivisie’s brightest young players and a future star.
According to Voetbal International (h/t the Daily Star), there's mutual interest between United and Depay.
However, signing him right now would be an almighty gamble.
Depay’s end product is somewhat inconsistent and, even though he is capable of the sublime, he’s also prone to being largely ineffective.
Arguably, Depay would be better off staying at PSV Eindhoven for at least one more season. If he impresses during the 2014/15 campaign and continues to develop his all-round game, then United would be wise to make a move.
For now, though, it’s too much of a risk.
What Does Depay Have to Offer United?
As the video above illustrates, Depay really is a class act.
Using his raw speed and quick turn of pace, he can evade challenges and stretch the game by going beyond defenders. When he does so, he often has the presence of mind—as well as the technical ability—to whip in a dangerous cross or cut in to shoot on his favoured right foot.
There’s a fantastic tempo about Depay’s play. He’s always willing to carry the ball forward and take the game to his opponents.
In general, Depay's athleticism is just what United need. He’s got a strong physique, explosive acceleration and his body type really does belie that of a normal 22-year-old.
In Louis van Gaal’s preferred 4-3-3 formation, Depay could be a hit at Old Trafford on the left-hand side.
For all of United’s problems last season, the lack of pace and athleticism in the team was really felt. Much of United’s football was slow, lethargic and worryingly predictable.
Depay is the complete opposite. There’s no doubt that he would be a breath of fresh air.
But this is a scenario United faced just a year ago. Wilfried Zaha, a similar player to Depay, shone for United in pre-season, but played just four games before being loaned out to Cardiff in January.
Zaha joined United as a 20-year-old speedster with a bag of tricks. Depay is currently a 20-year-old speedster with a bag of tricks. It would therefore seem odd to spend heavily on Depay when United already have Zaha.
The Truth About Depay…
Labelled as a star to watch at this summer’s World Cup, a closer look at Depay’s statistics reveals that he’s not ready to make the switch to Old Trafford just yet.
Peter McVitie’s article for BeNefoot, a concise profile of Depay’s career thus far, sheds some light on his 2013/14 season at PSV. With comfortably the most shots in the Eredivisie, it’s Depay’s conversion rate that is concerning—at just over 9 percent (12 goals from 132 shots), he was extremely wasteful.
On the one hand, Depay should be applauded for his willingness to shoot.
The likes of Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick and Shinji Kagawa, in particular, have all been guilty of trying to find an extra pass when going for goal looked to be the better option. Nevertheless, the point is that Depay is not yet clinical in the final third.
His 13 goals and eight assists in 48 appearances during the 2013/14 season are nothing special.
It’s not a bad return, particularly given that it was his first full season, but Depay would find things much tougher in the Premier League. That’s why he must build on his game-winning contribution before a move to United occurs.
In the modern-day world of YouTube videos and Vines, which serve as a platform for the up-and-coming stars of the game to showcase their skills, sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the hype.
Depay is remarkably talented and will likely develop into one of the finest Dutch players of his generation. Right now, however, at a time when United simply have to bounce back from a disastrous season, he cannot be relied upon to make the step up to Premier League football and deliver consistently.
Will United Make a Move for Depay?
Van Gaal’s three-year contract at United means he will be looking to sign players who can slot into the starting XI right away and make an immediate impact.
Van Gaal won’t be too concerned about long-term planning in the sense that, despite having Ryan Giggs alongside him as an obvious successor, his legacy at Old Trafford will be remembered by his ability to regain Champions League football whilst picking up two or three trophies.
For that reason, Depay is probably not the way to go this summer.
The young Dutch star is one for the future no doubt, but for now, United would be better off investing in proven talent.
The narrative that United need to sign five or six players this summer will never materialise—it’s just not feasible to rebuild a team in one transfer window.
Therefore, in a squad that’s already front-loaded, with an abundance of attacking players and a real dearth of star quality in central midfield and defence, it’s important to prioritise.
Depay wouldn’t be a bad purchase, but in a year or so's time, he might be an excellent one.