Is Dutch dangerman Depay solution to Man Utd striker shortage?
As Manchester United (a best market price of 11/2 with Coral to win the Premier League) officially unveiled summer signing Memphis Depay, the Netherlands winger, who was reunited with former Clockwork Orange coach and mentor Louis van Gaal for the press conference, appeared to suggest he could be the answer to United’s dearth of strikers.
“I want to play, of course. It’s up to the boss where he wants to put me,” Depay said. “I’m excited about scoring goals and giving assists… I’m a striker.”
As PSV’s top scorer for last term with 28 across all competitions the question seems a logical one to ask. Could Depay grow into a player who could lead the line prolifically for Man Utd?
As Red Devils task master Van Gaal was quick to point out, the youngster has played the role before for his national team. “It’s one of the reasons we bought Memphis. He played striker in the Dutch team and learns very quickly,” added the Man Utd boss.
“He can play in different positions. We have to wait and see in which position he can give the most benefit to the team.”
Certainly Depay has the skillset to replicate Arjen Robben, who often played in a free and fluid role just behind Robin van Persie at the 2014 World Cup under Van Gaal, terrorising opposition with his dribbling, directness and raw pace.
Could United’s latest recruit step in as a true centre forward to replace reportedly outgoing compatriot Van Persie, however? The lethal marksman, set to join Turkish giants Fenerbahce, also started out as a flank threat before being converted by Arsene Wenger, it should be noted.
Depay undoubtedly has the goal record to deserve such a backing, but leading the line for an elite club takes much more than that.
The former PSV predator looks his most threatening when driving inside from the left wing to release a trademark blistering shot with his peach of a right peg, but would need to add more discipline to his game were his duties to now include acting as a focal point and spearhead.
See Depay’s goal haul from last season:
Much will depend on Van Gaal’s philosophy and formation for the upcoming season as, should the Dutchman deploy a flexible three-pronged attack in the shape of a 4-3-3, Depay could easily fulfil a wide forward role, rotating across the frontline with Wayne Rooney and one of Angel Di Maria or Juan Mata.
With Van Persie’s departure believed to be imminent, Javier Hernandez currently injured and also linked with an exit, plus young sharpshooters Angelo Henriquez and Will Keane having already been offloaded, on permanent and loan deals respectively, more forward threat is clearly required.
Should poaching prodigy James Wilson also seek a temporary stint elsewhere for more game time, United will be looking rather threadbare up front. Recent reports tipping the likes of Karim Benzema, Edinson Cavani, Harry Kane Romelu Lukaku and Thomas Muller to arrive at Old Trafford all seem rather unrealistic, so Man Utd could move to save cash by looking within their current ranks.
Rumour has it that Van Gaal, famed for converting players into new roles with much success, is also keen to transform attacking midfielder Adnan Januzaj into a forward, which could make for some intriguing pre-season viewing.
The 63-year-old tactician is renowned for his work with young players, and seemed to confirm that approach would continue, stating: “We have enough strikers but Man United shall not buy [for the sake of it]. I want to develop players. When you buy it has to be better than what you have.”
Should Man Utd (20/1 to lift the Champions League)resist dipping into their coffers to reinforce the attack further it will be a huge risk, and show of faith, in United’s young-guns. Van Gaal, who is known for favouring strong but also technical forwards who can bring others into play, sticks staunchly by his playing philosophy, so it may actually prove prudent to field attackers already schooled in his tactics than spending big on older players unable to adapt.