Louis van Gaal has called on Memphis Depay to maintain his form if he wants to win back his place in the Manchester United first team on a permanent basis, but a club legend has warned him that one good performance doesn’t make him great.
Depay scored the opener in United’s 2-1 victory over Watford at the weekend having been deployed in a lead striker role due to the absence of Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney. With both strikers fit to face PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday though, Depay could find himself either shifted to the left wing or dropped from the starting line-up all together.
Van Gaal sanctioned the £23m purchase of the Netherlands forward in the summer, but he elected to drop the 21-year-old following a string of below-par performances at the start of the season. With Depay taking his chance well with a first-time volley from close range, Van Gaal stressed that he will not make decisions based on one good performance.
"I am a coach that always demands not only one match but several matches," Van Gaal said ahead of tonight’s Champions League tie with the Dutch champions from whom United signed Depay in the summer.
"It is always the same procedure. I compare players and the ones I think are best in our game plan, they shall play."
However, Van Gaal also stressed that his captain, Rooney, is not exempt from being left out of the side if he doesn’t perform. The declaration is a change of tune to what the manager said earlier in the season where he revealed that the skipper was the only immediate name on the team sheet.
"No, not automatically," Van Gaal replied when asked if Rooney will return immediately to face PSV.
"I compare always players with each other and I take into account how fit they are and how fit they show it on the training sessions.
"That is why (Marouane) Fellaini and Rooney and (Anthony) Martial has to show it on the training ground their fitness and then I have to compare."
Depay has been warned though by former United striker and his compatriot Ruud van Nistelrooy, who stressed that it is not a given that he will go on to emulate the likes of David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo given that he wears the No 7 shirt at Old Trafford.
“Memphis has the quality and ability to do that but I understand your question at this moment in time,” Van Nistelrooy answered when asked about the No 7 shirt during a question and answer session at the Oxford Union. “To make a difference at United, it means being really brilliant and being decisive in big games. He is not yet ready for that quite yet.”
Having been replaced at half-time during United’s 3-0 defeat by Arsenal at the start of October, Depay did not feature in the Premier League until Saturday’s victory, but Van Nistelrooy did add that Depay has the talent and the character to return to his best and become one of United’s match-deciding players.
“He will rise again,” said Van Nistelrooy. “He will become better and more influential. He is really eager to learn.
“When he is with the national team, I have worked very closely with him. We watch his video clips a lot and closely analyse what he can do better and improve upon. As a coach, I always look to accentuate positives to make his strong points even better. He will get there, I'm sure.”
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