I wrote a piece last week questioning how long Louis Van Gaal would play Memphis Depay in a central role just behind Wayne Rooney, as he elected to do in Manchester United's season opener against Tottenham, before he opted to move the Dutchmen to his more natural position on the left wing in place of Ashley Young. It took LVG just one game to make that change as Memphis started on the left against Aston Villa last Friday. He had a fairly indifferent performance there but thrived in that role in Manchester United's 2-1 win over Club Brugge in Champions League playoff qualification tonight. He scored two fantastic goals cutting in from the left, provided the assist for the third with a perfectly whipped cross to Marouane Fellaini at the back post and forced another couple of difficult saves from Brugge goalkeeper Sebastien Bruzzese.
It feels a bit harsh on Ashley Young to be losing his spot. He was one of United's best players last season so it felt unnecessarily harsh when this summer Van Gaal said in an interview "You can expect things from Ashley Young. He had a fantastic season. But he is not a Neymar and we have to compete with that."
No one would argue Young is a better player than Neymar, Young included, but to draw attention to that fact publicly doesn't seem like a great way to get the most of out of a player that was vital to United's second place finish.
Still, as unhelpful as LVG's comment may have been, there's an obvious truth to what he said. Young is a limited player, extremely gifted at playing teasing crosses from the channels but not especially skilled at attacking the opposition fullback off the dribble, cutting inside and finishing. He's at his best when United are playing with Fellaini, a giant of an attacking player that can get to the back post and attack Young's whipped crosses.
But it's obvious LVG wants to evolve his side's style of play towards something less simplistic than crossing to the big man at the back post. Memphis is the ideal modern wide attacking player, athletic and outrageously quick, capable of hitting a good cross but also adept at beating his defender, cutting inside and scoring goals of his own. For all of Young's good work last season he scored only 4 goals in all competitions. With Robin Van Persie having departed for Fenerbahce over the summer and Rooney currently struggling for goal scoring form, it'll be important for United to get goals from elsewhere. Memphis was the Eredivisie's top scorer last season with 22 and therefore provides an additional goal scoring threat for the opposition to worry about.
Memphis's ability to shoot from distance is also a tremendous threat. There's been a stat floating around on Twitter that 9 0f his last 30 goals have come from outside the penalty area. That's a major concern for opposition defenders. He's ultra-quick so if defenders try to close him down to quickly he'll easily blow by them, but alternatively if they back off he can make them pay with his shooting from distance.
There's also probably something to be said for Memphis sharing his manager's nationality. He can expect a warmer relationship with his boss than the one experienced by the recently departed Angel Di Maria which should help with the adjustment process and keep his confidence levels high. The signs point to Memphis being a terrific player for Manchester United.