Memphis Depay started all of the first eight league games last season, but only eight of the remaining thirty. Memphis, as he prefers to be called, would understandably want fans to forget how his first season at Manchester United went. Now, he has a chance to make a second debut, and he is not the only one.
The winger played 45 minutes of United’s first pre-season game against Wigan Athletic on Saturday, and as was the case last season, he showed glimpses of just why the club spent nearly 30m pounds on a 21-year-old last summer.
Pre-season friendlies are a time of mixed emotions for fans. On the one hand, you get to watch some of the youngsters get a run-out in the team and hope the next Paul Pogba or Ryan Giggs is among them. On the other, managers use it to display unwanted players in the shop window. New United manager, Jose Mourinho has to do a lot of both.
The former Chelsea manager may have overseen a 2-0 win at Wigan, but fans know the team that started the match, will be vastly different to the one that lines up against Bournemouth in the first league game on August 14.
As United play more pre-season games and players return from their post Euro breaks, fans will get a better idea of what the team will look like.
Finding the right tenants
If each position on the pitch were to be property, new arrival Zlatan Ibrahimovic would own the striker’s plot, with Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea the master at the other end. They are the two farthest teammates on the pitch, and everything between them, is up for rent.
Still, guessing games are fun, so let us.
In defence, left back Luke Shaw should make the position his own should he stay injury free. New signing Eric Bailly---assured against Wigan---and Chris Smalling are likely to take the two centre-back positions. That could change if rumours that Mourinho is out looking for a central defender are true. It does not look good for Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones.
Right-back is up for grabs. How Italian Matteo Darmian fares will only be certain once he returns from holiday, and with Antonio Valencia impressing against Wigan, the pair could be competing with each other. Mourinho likes attacking full backs, and both of them are just that, the only problem for Darmian however, is that Valencia played on Saturday and his performance must have made an impression. Youngster Timothy Fosu-Mensah will also be another hoping to get some game time this season.
If Mourinho sticks to his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, then the ‘2’ there, has a massive ‘for rent’ signboard on it. German Bastian Schweinsteiger had a forgettable first season at United but a good showing at the Euro, while Michael Carrick is too old to play each game. Frenchman Morgan Schneiderlin is rumoured to be on the way out. Ander Herrera is a Mourinho-type player, but whether he fits into the midfield will only be certain after a few more games.
Should United succeed in their pursuit of Juventus midfielder Pogba, he will be as clueless as to all of us who his neighbour will be.
Ahead of them, Anthony Martial, Wayne Rooney and new boy Henrikh Mkhitaryan seem to be the obvious candidates, playing just behind Ibrahimovic in the ‘3’. Mkhitaryan impressed in his 45 minutes against Wigan and will be up against Juan Mata for the playmaker’s role. Mata though, might not even be at the club by the time the transfer window shuts ---he was sold to United by Mourinho when he was in charge at Chelsea. He is likely to be surplus again.
That brings us back to Zlatan. The team surely looks capable of making the top four, but a title challenge could be stretching it. Mourinho has clearly stated he wants one more player, and that signing could be the difference between a title challenge or otherwise.
Of course, Mourinho could do something completely different and fool us all, but whatever happens, fans will be just be glad Louis van Gaal is not the landlord anymore.