Is a Manchester United return for Memphis Depay on the cards?
Image: Daniel, CC BY-SA 2.0
When Memphis Depay joined Manchester United in 2015, hopes were high United had finally found the heir to the now infamous No.7 shirt and a man to fill the gaping hole left by its last successful inhabitant, Cristiano Ronaldo. It’s fair to say that not all went to plan.
After a disastrous term in Manchester, Depay was sold to Olympique Lyon by Jose Mourinho. Upon his return to the city for Lyon’s September Champions League bout with Manchester City, he made a case for his triumphant return to Old Trafford.
Depay has begun showing the consistency he so sorely lacked in a United Shirt. While one would be blind not to see his talent, one had to be patient with its erratic schedule. In Alexandre Lacazette's wake, Memphis scored 19 goals for Lyon in Ligue 1 last season. Coming from a winger, that's an even more impressive total. Compare his work to the more heralded Kylian Mbappe, who mustered only 13 with Paris Saint-Germain.
Depay’s failure in Manchester was the much-needed catalyst to turn a young boy into a man, one now capable of going head-to-head with the Premier League's best while holding his own. Depay’s immaturity is a thing of the past. At United, he was routinely criticised for his flamboyant lifestyle, often easing into United’s Carrington training complex flush with jewels and his Rolls Royce. His performances tended to be more Vauxhall, yet Depay persisted, drawing unwanted attention to himself while adding to the pre-existing mountain of pressure.
Speaking at Lyon’s pre-match press conferences before their game against Manchester City, Depay thought he was a changed man:
It’s in the past and I’m a flamboyant guy and like nice stuff but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t be smarter. I’ve become more mature. You go through experiences in life on and off the pitch. When I came back today [to Manchester] I felt like a different person.
If the young Dutchman’s words aren't sufficient, his performances suggest he has indeed matured while on his stint with Lyon. Yes, he still likes nice things. People must realise the money means football isn’t the same as it a generation ago. Rugged ‘hardcore’ footballers are an increasing rarity. One only has to look as far as United’s dabbing duo of Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard for proof.
Don't get me wrong. Depay doesn't always help his cause. Recently the Dutchman hit five million followers on Instagram. He celebrated by posting a cringe-worthy solo rap video. The video left much to be desired. It was largely panned.
In it, Depay says he is a young king who lives lavishly. Many took issue, thinking a footballer bragging about privilege gives out the wrong message. The other big stumbling block was he was smoking a cigar. As a footballer, the world’s eyes are on you, many of them young. Wearing nice clothes is one thing. Smoking a cigar in front of your five million followers isn't the best choice for a role model.
Manchester United was a move that came too soon for Depay. It’s easy to get caught up in the glitz and glamour of playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world, easier when you're young. The good news is time on his side. If reports that United inserted a buy-back clause into Depay’s contract are true, he may well find himself gracing the pitch at Old Trafford once more. This time, it should be more successful.