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Memphis Depay Must Show Manchester United He's Much More Than a Frustrating Enigma

18/11/2015 17:24 GMT | Updated 18/11/2016 10:12 GMT

On Friday night, the Netherlands beat Wales 3-2 at the Millennium Stadium, with a match-winning double coming from a feared and exciting winger. Similarly, a promising winged talent lit up Old Trafford in Manchester United's last outing against West Brom in the Premier League, scoring the opening goal and setting Louis van Gaal's men well on their way to a much needed victory.

The problem for Memphis Depay is that neither of those players were him. In the Welsh capital, it was the Oranje old guard who electrified in the shape of Arjen Robben. Before that, it was Jesse Lingard who was endearing himself to the Stretford End in United colours, announcing himself with his first career goal while Depay looked on from the bench.

It's a position he's come to occupy almost unremittingly in recent weeks for United, already staring into the barrel of a disappointing debut campaign after being looked upon as something of a saviour figure. Indeed, following his expensive arrival from PSV Eindhoven - whom he propelled to an Eredivisie title with a brilliant return of 28 goals in 40 games - Depay has flirted briefly with his obvious talents before quickly falling out of favour with the ruthless Van Gaal.

Now fighting to regain his place for club and country just 12 months after being hailed as the most exciting young winger in European football, Depay is straying dangerously close to being something of a frustrating enigma. United are accustomed to this brand of player. The footballer with gifts substantial and obvious, but who falls foul of the discipline and dedication needed to flourish at an elite level. The characteristics that catapulted Cristiano Ronaldo to a shower of personal accolades. The characteristics Nani couldn't maintain, ultimately leading to a mutual falling out of love between player and club.

The first problem is Depay's fitness. The Dutchman isn't the explosive winger many had envisaged, although he carries a somewhat hulking, muscular frame, leading to reports of attempts on his part to improve his diet. According to a report in The Times, Memphis has piled on five kilograms since arriving in Manchester and has hired a personal cook to help him maintain a strict diet.

He said: "When I first stood on the scales I thought, 'OK, is this correct?' My body is still developing. Now I'm a little more heavy, so I have to work on that." It's imperative that Memphis works hard on this specific aspect, as the phenomenal physical transformation of Ronaldo helped him develop a power and explosion of pace that set him apart in his halcyon days as United's megastar. Memphis aspires to a similar standing and knows he must follow in Ronaldo's footsteps in sculpting a shredded figure to fend off the critics.

Of course, as we all know, that is only one small part of the challenge. It is a game of football, after all, not the Olympic 100m sprint. Memphis' product on the pitch needs to improve dramatically if he's to survive, starting with the facets of his that originally excited the United scouts when they watched him on several occasions last season. According to WhoScored.com, Memphis has played 589 minutes of Premier League football, registering only a single goal and zero assists. More alarmingly, Memphis has only created four chances in his eight league appearances and has a 44% shot accuracy.

This depicts a player short on confidence, ideas and inspiration, who's looked erratic and frustratingly out of sync with his team-mates during a period which has seen Anthony Martial's largely seamless transition into English football. One couldn't help but notice Martial's piece of magic that set up Olivier Giroud in France's 2-0 win over Germany, contrasting starkly with Depay being an unused substitute in Holland's game in Cardiff.

A mentor of sorts, Robben has said he has complete confidence in Memphis becoming a star at United, but his optimism is blind based on the level of performance we've seen so far. Before Depay joined United, there were rumblings of his arrogance and difficult character and the jury is out after a disconcerting 'settling in' period. It's time to shape up, focus and exude the fearlessness and confidence that prompted United into splashing out £31m for him.

United face a hectic schedule in the lead-up to Christmas, playing seven games in the next four weeks and there's no better place for Memphis to recapture the hearts of United's supporters than under the floodlights next Wednesday night against his old team in the Champions League. He could be the hero that night, but it's up to him to ensure that happens.

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