The Expectation of Memphis Depay

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Before the return of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to Manchester United as interim coach, Memphis Depay (£3.86)  seemed to stand as a symbol of their barren years.

He arrived at Old Trafford as a much-hyped youngster from PSV but was judged a £25 million failure before being shipped to Lyon for a loss of around a third of his value by Jose Mourinho.

Some fans argued that he was a victim of the dour pragmatism that had engulfed the club and had not been given the opportunity that he merited, while others stood unconvinced that he was anything more than a player to make flashy YouTube compilations from.

With some kind of sense of joie de vivre back at the Red Devils, he has been forgotten for now, but for a time – and certainly when he performed any outrageous skill for Lyon – he re-emerged in the Man Utd consciousness as a symbol of the audacity and excitement the club had lost.

He has been in France for little over two years and is growing restless. Indeed, he has made no secret of his desire to return to a top side.

“Lyon is a big club, but not one of the five best in Europe,” he told Helden in January.

“I want to go to a club like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain or Bayern Munich.”

If he is to win such a move, he has the ideal opportunity to showcase himself against the Catalans as OL line them up in a Champions League last-16 clash.

Nabil Fekir (£5.65) will miss the first leg in France due to suspension, so the creative burden will fall upon the 25-year-old Dutchman, who is likely to take up the vacant No.10 station.

Team-mate Rafael, who has just returned to the fold after several weeks out through injury, certainly believes he is capable of playing a decisive role in such a big match.

“Memphis could dream about being a top-three player in the world if he was playing amazing every game, like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, and players who are close to the best like Antoine Griezmann,” he told Omnisport.

“If Memphis does it, he could reach that level. One game he is extraordinary, one game he’s not doing well.”

The current reality, however, does not reflect as kindly upon Memphis as his club-mate.

He is presently in the middle of an erratic campaign, and while he is showing signs of breaking out of a distinctly disappointing run of form, there has been little concrete evidence that it will happen. There’s been an outrageous flick here, a brilliant touch there, but little tangible.

Statistics show that he has flattered to deceive in Ligue 1 for the last three months. Since a blistering display against bottom club Guingamp, during which he both scored and assisted two goals, he has failed to find the net. Moreover, he has added just one more assist to his number in the last 11 league matches.

Of his five Ligue 1 strikes for the season, not one has come against a team in the top nine in the standings, while three of his eight assists have come against top-half opponents.

He is not the player some United fans believe to be destroying the division.

Indeed, there is little doubt that he is entirely eclipsed by Fekir in terms of importance to the side. The World Cup winners’ absence, however, offers a rare opportunity to Memphis to show just how devastating he can be.

He has not let OL down in the Champions League this season, scoring one and setting up four more as Bruno Genesio’s side navigated the group stage undefeated, albeit with five successive draws. He has made key contributions in clutch situations, setting up three of their four goals in two games against Manchester City and the Fekir strike that ultimately qualified the Rhone club on the final matchday versus Shakhtar Donetsk.

Sometimes in football, timing is everything. Hit a good night against Barcelona and the Depay legend will have a fresh chapter written in it, with the future increasingly likely to contain his dream move.

Unless he can improve the reliability of his output, however, his tale at the very top is only likely to end in disappointment.

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About Author

A football journalist specialising in the French and Scottish game, Robin has been writing professionally for over a decade. His career highlights include attending World Cups in Brazil and Russia, and Euro 2016 in France.

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