Jérôme Boateng might still be on the floor waiting for a hip replacement after Lionel Messi wickedly dribbled and shimmied the ball past the German international in Barcelona’s semi final champions league clash against Guardiola’s Bayern Munich. Admittedly, Messi demolished a depleted Bayern side, but a side that are viciously well drilled by their enigmatic manager regardless. Highly successful teams depend on the magic of game changers such as Messi, Ronaldo, Robben, and Hazard to break well organized, and resolute teams down.
This type of lightning rod player is clearly something that has been missing from the Louis van Gaal project. You would forgive the United Manager if he thought he was getting that when he broke the bank for Ángel Di María. But the truth is the embattled Argentine is more of a provider than a finisher, yes he can get on his bike and zip through defenses when he is at full tilt and soaring with confidence. Still Di María has always been an assist provider rather than a force with an acute eye for goal.
Manchester United’s dwindling fortunes after the impressive run against Spurs, Liverpool, and City have conjured grey skies over the Mancunian capital of football once again. The red ink was barely dry, after the recent repainting of the city following the rare derby win against the noisy neighbors, before things puzzlingly fell apart.
The torrent of goals, has been cursorily followed by a goal drought that has seen the Red Devils draw blanks against champions Chelsea, Everton, and West Brom. The recent defeats, essentially a clone of each other, sharing the same fault line. United found it easy to maintain large portions of possession, but did not have anyone to provide an individual moment to cap the quarantine of the ball with a goal.
Inforgraphic showing Memphis Depay key stats 2014/15 season versus the world's best. Created by Chuky Akosionu @thedailymanc.
To stop the bleeding LVG has applied his first suture, and reminiscent of Mourinho’s deft transfer business last season, the Dutch trainer has plunged in early to grab one of the most exciting talents out there in the form of his compatriot – 21 years old PSV star winger Memphis Depay. Early reports suggest the transfer fee, for the Eredivisie’s golden boot, is in the vicinity of £25 million with, the now standard, incentives and bonus clauses that might see that figure rise.
It will be much needed balm for some of the soreness Red Devils supporters have been feeling, as they have seen the team’s challenge for an automatic champions league spot implode, with City leapfrogging over them with ease. Memphis Depay is not just a signal of intent, but a soothing indication that LVG now has a strong sense of exactly what pieces of the puzzle are missing from his ‘Gaalactico’ masterpiece. The fact that he has moved swiftly to snatch Depay from the market, bulldozing through Liverpool’s lustful advances, potentially avoiding a price war in the offseason, and ensuring Depay has adequate time to integrate into the squad in the pre-season – exactly opposite to the Di María acquisition.
For the United faithful there is a lot to be buoyant about, however there is still serious work to be done on the pitch this season. Getting a result at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace will be imperative to stave off Liverpool's late surge for the last champ league spot. A fourth slip on the bounce would certainly put United in perilous waters, and sap the winds out the sails of the promising start of the summer transfer window.
The early Depay agreement could also serve as a kick up the backside of players in the current squad to buck up their ideas, as the promise of stiff competition looms. United will have to be more incisive against Palace, and look to draw first blood otherwise Palace will sit back like others have successfully done, and wait to counter. United have rarely won once down a goal to a team that has their bus double parked. Let’s hope for a different approach on Saturday.