Depay in league of champs

Two goals from Memphis Depay (left) and an assist for Marouane Fellaini provide a cushion for the return leg against Bruges.
Two goals from Memphis Depay (left) and an assist for Marouane Fellaini provide a cushion for the return leg against Bruges.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

No.7's quality in win over Bruges suggests he could become another United icon some day

LONDON • There are some players who find that the Manchester United No. 7 shirt weighs too heavily on their shoulders and there are others who find it a perfect fit.

It would be wildly premature to mark the latest incumbent down as another Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham or Cristiano Ronaldo but Memphis Depay demonstrated on Tuesday that he has the quality and bravado to illuminate the Old Trafford stage.

With two stunning individual goals, both involving wonderful improvisation as he cut inside from the left wing, Depay, the £25 million (S$55 million) summer signing from PSV Eindhoven, gave United a 2-1 lead before half-time.

For good measure, he set up the third goal for Marouane Fellaini, the substitute, in stoppage time.

That increased United's margin for error before the second leg of this Champions League play-off tie in Bruges next Wednesday.


  • Memphis Depay's dramatic impact on Tuesday, early in his Manchester United career, mirrored these statements of intent by Old Trafford forwards.


    The former PSV Eindhoven player marked his first Premier League appearance in 2001 by scoring the two goals that turned a 1-2 deficit into a 3-2 win over Fulham.


    The England international hit a hat-trick in the 6-2 victory against Fenerbahce in 2004 in a debut that had been delayed several weeks by injury.


    The Dutchman scored a hat-trick in his third league game to help United beat Southampton 3-2 in 2012.

Fellaini's goal gave the scoreline a more realistic look at the end of a game that United dominated after falling behind to an own goal from Michael Carrick.

There were strong contributions from the back four, all of them willing to defend more aggressively and pro-actively, and a welcome improvement from Wayne Rooney in the 3-1 win at Old Trafford .

But their outstanding performer, by far, was Depay. He injected some of the speed and devilment that United have been missing.

And he revived memories of Rooney's United debut 11 years ago when he netted a hat-trick in a Champions League game against Fenerbahce.

United manager Louis van Gaal was glowing in his praise of the winger, who was deployed in his favoured position on the left. "I want to kiss him tonight because when you score two goals and have an assist, then normally in the world you are the hero," said van Gaal.

Depay might have claimed a hat-trick but spurned a second-half chance that left him disappointed.

Van Gaal said: "He is never satisfied and I like that because you have to know what you are doing and also what you can do.

"Then, your desire to improve is higher - and that's Memphis."

Depay struggled in his first two English Premier League games but his contribution against Bruges hinted that he can handle the pressure of the iconic No. 7 jersey.

"I'm happy that I scored and, of course, I'm happy that we won," he said. "But I must admit I'm a bit disappointed because I could have scored the last two chances and got a hat-trick."

United's display was a riposte to those who have suggested they lack attacking panache.

Van Gaal was relieved that his side won but was quick to point out that they cannot afford to think they have already taken their place in the competition proper for the first time in two years.

"I've read in the papers in England that it is simple and it is a walkover but it isn't like that. It (Bruges) is a difficult ground, and it is not a simple opponent. It is still a game but, because of the last goal, we now have more confidence."

Beaten coach Michel Preud'homme conceded that Fellaini's late goal was "very bad for the confidence" and struck a fatalistic tone when asked about Bruges' chances in the return leg.

"We're always learning - we have a lot of young players - and we'll try to be better in the second leg," said the former Belgium goalkeeper, who took Bruges to the Europa League quarter-finals in 2014-15.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2015, with the headline 'DEPAY IN LEAGUE OF CHAMPS'. Print Edition | Subscribe