LvG’s Rebuild – Walking In A Memphis Wonderland
The guerrilla kidnapping-like capture of PSV star Memphis Depay yesterday meant one thing: Manchester United mean business.
It wasn’t so much the signing itself, more the way it was executed. Like a Navy SEAL covert operation, United officials had been informed other parties were circling the 22-year-old and swooped like an eagle: no long, drawn-out negotiations, no agents haggling over minute details – here’s the cash, have him sent over as soon as you can.
The reported fee for Depay was in and around £22 million – not exactly a reasonable amount of money for a player who’s never played in a top five European league before, but it should be money well spent.
The Dutch international has been likened to Cristiano Ronaldo – a lofty comparison – but actually isn’t too far off the mark: he does bear some similarities to the former Red Devils’ great.
A rapid, skilful winger, Depay is the archetypal modern day flank forward – quick feet, great dribbling ability, good vision, an excellent range of passing and finishing ability; his 21 goals and 4 assists in 28 league games for PSV this season suggest as much.
Ronaldo arrived as a skinny 18-year-old with the same sort of abilities; Depay, at 22, will clock in a more muscular presence and should be more attuned to the physical nature of English football.
Along with Lazio’s Felipe Anderson, he is arguably the most talented young forward in European football – one more product out of the much-vaunted De Herdgang academy.
For Manchester United fans, it is easy to be excited, but they must also be patient. Depay – like Ronaldo – may not hit the ground running.
Whilst he is supremely talented, he is still not the finished article, with his decision-making at times letting him down. If you were watching PSV’s game with PEC Zwolle a few weeks back you’d have seen that in full-flow as he squandered chance after chance.
With day-to-day coaching, though, and regular game time in the Premier League, that will improve and the tempo of English football should suit Depay down to the ground.
His signing sent a message to the rest of Manchester United’s rivals that phase two of Louis Van Gaal’s rebuilding process is already well underway.
It also hints at the idea that the United coach plans to implement his squad with as many tactically flexible players as possible with Depay able to play in a variety of positions.
Other transfer targets have already been mooted, too. One assumes Van Gaal will be keen to supplement his defence and midfield swiftly.
Right back is an issue with Antonio Valencia manfully covering for an underwhelming Rafael.
Everton and Ireland’s Seamus Coleman has been mentioned and he would certainly be an ideal signing. Still just 26, the Donegal man has been the standout full back in the Premier League for the last two seasons and is surely on the cusp of a big move.
The Borussia Dortmund duo of Mats Hummels and İlkay Gündoğan also look to be on the radar, too, with the latter heavily touted for a move.
Despite being such a vital component of the side, Michael Carrick’s inability to stay fit for more than two weeks at a time has forced Van Gaal to look for reinforcements and the signing of Gündoğan – and Hummels – would really set the cat amongst the pigeons next season.
The side has yet to consistently click this season but there have been enough glimpses in certain performances to suggest Van Gaal isn’t far off hitting 6th gear.
It cannot be understated how important this summer’s transfer window is. There is a huge opportunity to challenge for the title next season. Whilst many have suggested Chelsea will remain untouchable, the Premier League has proved in recent seasons how difficult it is for one side to dominate.
The signing of Memphis Depay and the stealth with which it was carried out bears the hallmarks of a club ready to reignite the flames of former glories.