Like the average poacher profits from good service, a skilful winger thrives on confidence. It’s all well and good being a box of tricks with pace to burn, but if you’ve not got the belief to get past your opposing full-back, speed is only going to get your so far.
We’ve seen it time and time again with wingers who appear to have it all, but mentally they just aren’t resilient enough to raise their game when, perhaps, their natural ability should make them decisive.
Nani at Manchester United was the prime example. Talented, yes, but wildly erratic and infinitely frustrating. Similarly Wilfried Zaha, though perhaps he never got the chance to truly flourish at Old Trafford.
Are you sensing a pattern? Next in line is Memphis Depay.
After an excellent 2014 World Cup was followed up by a fine season with PSV, Depay joined Louis van Gaal’s United and seemed destined to be the next big thing both at the club and at international level.
At first he seemed to fit rather seamlessly into the team and his first couple of months were quite promising, particularly a two-goal display against Club Brugge in the Champions League play-offs.
But gradually his effectiveness dwindled and he steadily fell out of favour. He’s yet to recover, having played just 20 minutes of Premier League football this season.
Of course, that will partly come down to the player, but considering Jose Mourinho has hardly been blessed by in-form stars this term, it’s difficult to see how Depay hasn’t deserved more of a shot. After all, Marcus Rashford is probably their only attacker to look remotely threatening out wide this term.
Despite Depay’s obvious struggles, he shouldn’t be written off. Technically speaking, there is a serious player in there somewhere.
Ronald Koeman has confirmed to @FOXSportsnl he wants to loan Memphis Depay this winter, says he wanted to sign him before for S’ton.
— Michiel Jongsma (@JongsmaJongsma) November 13, 2016
Ronald Koeman’s recent declaration of interest in him should have been a wake-up call. The club’s official Twitter account even seemed to take that as a nod to start updating fans on his form.
— Everton (@Everton) November 13, 2016
A loan move to Everton wouldn’t be an entirely bad decision. It would definitely expose him to more first-team football and playing for a coach who obviously rates him should help instill some much-needed self-belief.
But United should be wary of Everton’s interest, particularly if they end up making moves to bring him to Goodison Park on a full-time basis.
Depay’s talent, although only displayed sporadically at United, is not trivial and at 22 he is by no means a lost cause. Mourinho should recognise this.
His two-goal performance for the Netherlands on Sunday saw him attract glances of intrigue. Although only playing against the modest Luxembourg, he scored twice and strutted his stuff like someone not lacking in confidence.
Memphis Depay free-kick for the Netherlands today pic.twitter.com/hyJi6BOoHx
— Man Utd Videos ⚽️ (@ManUtdVines) November 13, 2016
This is a two-way street, though. Depay must show some signs of fight, but a January loan in the Premier League could be the kick up the backside he needs. He just need to hope that United recognise selling him would be a grave example of short-termism.