Memphis Depay was outstanding for Manchester United against FC Midtjylland.
His brilliant late goal came after the right-back assigned to mark him—Andre Romer—had got himself sent off. That Romer, worn out from dealing with Memphis, finally made the fatal error and got himself removed was no surprise.
Of course, at this point it is practically mandatory to draw attention to the relatively poor quality of opposition. No player, member of staff or fan of United is going to draw huge conclusions from the performance of the Red Devils against the Danish champions, who sit third in the Danish top flight.
Manchester United @ManUtd
Well done to @Memphis, who is our Man of the Match with 75% of your votes, after a stellar display and goal. #mufc https://t.co/gzYj6wf43z2016-2-25 22:52:27
However, relatively poor-quality opponents still need to be beaten. And it was the manner in which Memphis contributed to the win that gave renewed cause for optimism.
That this season has been a disappointment for United's No. 7 is not in doubt. On Wednesday, he was asked whether he had lived up to his transfer fee and replied, per Sky Sports:
No, not yet. I know that and I will continue to fight for it. I expect a lot from myself, that is important, and the club and I are busy trying to improve it.
I don't want to put a date on it [when I will be up to speed] but it will come, confidence will help, as will my experiences and learning from my mistakes.
The Midtjylland game was the second time Memphis had truly shone at Old Trafford—the first being the UEFA Champions League qualifier against Club Brugge back in August 2015. He had scored two fine goals in that game, offering a welcome break from his indifferent Premier League start.
Anthony Martial @AnthonyMartial
Memphis 🙈2016-2-25 22:05:51
There is a pretty straightforward comparison to be made here—European ties against “lesser” opponents have seen the Dutchman at his best. Given the level of opposition he faced in the Eredivisie—where he was a bona fide superstar—it makes sense that it is against teams from Europe's less glamorous leagues that he has been at his best.
But the key conclusion to draw from this is not necessarily that Memphis is some kind of flat-track bully. It may be that he never lives up to his billing at an elite level, but on the other hand it may just be that he has as-yet failed to adapt, but that adaptation is coming.
.@Memphis: MotM vs Midtjylland, Rating 10, Shots(OT) 10(4), Goals 1, Dribbles 15 @ManUtd https://t.co/ssMhsemDZ22016-2-25 22:06:42
Against Midtjylland, he showed how much he has to offer if he can make complete his transition to the Premier League. His statistical output was phenomenal, earning him a rating of 10 from WhoScored.com.
He took 10 shots, of which only one was off target—although it must be said that some of his on-target shots hardly troubled the 'keeper. He completed a remarkable 15 of 19 attempted dribbles, and Romer was dribbled past 11 times, though not all by Memphis.
15 dribbles from @Memphis tonight. 15! #MUFC https://t.co/Yb8iUoOhb02016-2-25 22:45:33
It was not just the number but the variety of dribbles that were so impressive. Memphis went through his arsenal in an exciting and creative manner, and all with plenty of end product. As well as the shots—one of which led to his superb goal—there were two key passes.
On BT Sport's coverage, co-commentator Michael Owen urged Midtjylland's defenders to show Memphis outside, denying him the chance to cut inside and shoot. However, when they did, Memphis often found his way into the box, where he caused plenty of havoc.
It was a near-complete performance.
Manchester United @ManUtd
.@Memphis: "We enjoyed it out on the pitch. We're very happy to go through and we have to keep this spirit as we move on to Sunday." #mufc2016-2-25 23:03:56
A near-complete performance against FC Midtjylland, of course, with all that implies. But the raw materials are so clearly there. If he can find the means to bring those talents to bear on higher-profile games then it is only a matter of time until he lives up to that transfer fee. It is much too soon for Memphis' United career to be written off.
All advanced statistics per WhoScored.com.