Memphis was not smiling. It looked wrong. It all looked wrong, even his place in the Manchester United lineup as they stood for the tear inducing UEFA champions league anthem as it rung out at Old Trafford after an agonizing one season’s absence. Memphis seemed far removed from the squad, standing at the farther most end from his captain Wayne Rooney, even after the towering Sergio Romero adorned in his all green kit. It looked rather deliberate, the self imposed solitude and the overly stern veneer. The optics might suggest the Dutch wonder kid looked disconnected from the rest of the team, not unlike how Pedro cut a forlorn figure at the winners podium after his goal secured the European Super Cup for Barcelona.
Photograph: Memphis in his own world as Champions League anthem is played. Photo by John Peters, Getty Images.
But this was clearly for two totally different reasons. The Canary Island super sub had grown tired of warming the bench at Barcelona, his future frustratingly uncertain at the time. Memphis it seems was in deep meditation to sharpen the mind for the task at hand. He had two very indifferent games so far before Brugge rolled into town. He looked determined to make his mark. He didn’t want to get lost in the euphoria of the grand European night; he did not have the time to court an occasion he intended to assault, once the referee’s whistle opened proceedings.
I believe the ex-PSV man had been too deferential in his opening games with United, especially to the man playing ahead of him. Here he had done away with all pleasantries, the quest to form an alliance with Wayne Rooney, to share the ball upfront with the skipper resulting mostly in unproductive one-two passes, all of that was done and over with. Rooney is the team’s leader on the pitch, but Memphis had to step out on his own to become his own man, and develop the selfish streak that is the hallmark of the very best attackers in the game.
Photograph: Memphis skips by Cools in UCL opening tie against Brugge. Photo by Alex Livesey, Getty Images.
The game itself started shabbily for United as their usually assured quarterback, Michael Carrick had an uneven game, started badly but recovered somewhat as the night progressed. Carrick first act was an errant pass, as he kicked the ball out of bounds missing both Schneiderlin and Darmain who where both generously within his line of sight. He then scoffed a ball clearance from a Brugge freekick into his own net, becoming the first player to breach Romero’s goal this season. And just when you thought the 34 year old had lost the plot, he delivers a first time ferocious pin point pass to Memphis who majestically chests the ball in traffic, coolly flicks the ball over the hapless Dion Cools, heads the ball down to feet, pushes the ball twice selling 3 Brugge players in hot pursuit down dummy creek, before slotting the ball into the net with his right foot.