Flop. United reject. Failure. All of those labels have been placed on Memphis Depay since his dream move to Old Trafford 2015 flamed out.
But consider for a moment if Jose Mourinho had got his way in selling Anthony Martial in 2018. His spell would also have been remembered as one of unfulfilled potential.
Mourinho did give up on Memphis Depay early, and unnecessarily, selling him to Lyon in 2017, after a disappointing start under Louis van Gaal. A loan move would have been more in keeping with United’s interests.
Depay is not far off being filed under Kevin de Bruyne and Mohamed Salah in terms of being creative gems who Mourinho discarded.
Had he been kept around, there is a strong chance that Depay would now be thriving at Old Trafford under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Forget what you saw at United
There is still a case that United should consider re-signing Depay if a move for Jadon Sancho does not materialise.
German newspaper Bild reported in early August that Depay was the player who Dortmund wanted to sign if they sold Sancho. That in itself is an indicator of how highly he is still regarded.
Depay has been a major hit at Lyon. He has scored 50 goals in 124 games for the club since joining.
The move has been good for his career, he has rediscovered his confidence and become more of an attacking threat.
Forget what you saw from him at United. The move came too soon for him. He will admit he did not handle it well. Now 26-years-old, Depay is more mature, and a better footballer.
Triumphant return from injury
Depay was on his way to a prolific season this year before cruelly suffering an ACL injury in December.
Prior to this point he had scored 14 goals in 20 games this season alone for Lyon.
He has worked hard to recover quickly and made his comeback for Lyon in the Champions League against Juventus last week, scoring a crucial goal which helped knock Cristiano Ronaldo’s side out of the competition, despite a brace from his United predecessor.
Depay now has a Champions League quarter-final in which he can shine, against Manchester City on Saturday night. The option to sign him may become even more of a talking point then.
He fits and has unfinished business
One of the best aspects of Depay’s game is his versatility. He can play in multiple positions across the frontline.
Like Anthony Martial, he has played as a centre-forward, but he can also operate on the left wing, and provide cover for Marcus Rashford.
Depay would solve two problems, in terms of eventually replacing Odion Ighalo as an extra forward option, while also allowing United to rotate Rashford more frequently.
Extra competition is always good, and Depay would have a point to prove at Old Trafford if he was to return.
He would bring an extra fluidity and freshness to United’s attack, which is needed.
At 26-years-old, this is the time to try and do a deal, and it would be especially wise ahead of Euro 2021, where he is set to star with the Netherlands, for who he has 19 goals in 50 games.
With the saving on price in comparison to the Sancho deal, United could buy a cheaper option on the right wing to rotate with Mason Greenwood, a player like Ismaila Sarr of Watford for instance, or, just try to play Depay on the right.
Don’t forget the clause
United are in control of Depay’s next move, as Lyon acknowledged as recently as late last year.
Technical director Juninho has told the club’s official website: “Manchester has a priority if several clubs line up to buy him.”
This first option clause was smartly negotiated by United when he was sold, and the Red Devils may soon have cause to consider using it, with interest across Europe likely to have been sparked by his recent comeback.
While it would be tough for everybody to share the same view that Depay would be the right answer, it is still an option worthy of consideration if the club’s plan on Sancho does not work out.
Depay would surely welcome a second chance, an opportunity to prove his doubters wrong, and playing under a manager who has let exciting attacking talent thrive.
United could even take a little pressure off by giving him the vacant number 11 shirt he wears at Lyon, rather than the 7 he previously wore.
- Luke Shaw calls for Manchester United to sign more players
- Solskjaer praises Donny van de Beek as midfielder sends message to fans
- Manchester United’s season feels over before it has really begun
- Six things learned as Manchester United lose to Crystal Palace
- Confirmed Manchester United line up v Crystal Palace
- Teden Mengi could have early season chance to impress for Manchester United
- How Donny van de Beek can use Manchester United fan frustration as motivation
- Four reasons for Manchester United to be optimistic
- Solskjaer tips Eric Bailly for big role in 2020/21