Memphis Depay arrival places Di Maria and Januzaj futures in doubt at United
Memphis Depay is a particularly exciting signing for Manchester United fans, but his arrival places the futures of several stars under threat.
The Dutchman, who has played 15 games for his country, has 27 goals in 38 games this season for PSV Eindhoven and will add pace and inventiveness to his new side's stagnant attack.
Depay has the vision, versatility and skill to play anywhere across the front line in a 4-3-3, as well as a conventional winger or playmaker in a 4-2-3-1 formation. But the question quickly arises as to what this means for the club's other wingers.
Nani, on loan at Sporting Lisbon, is out of the picture. Ashley Young has had an excellent season but he is one of the most likely to see his number of appearances recede in the next couple of seasons.
This is because Young, though he retains the ball very well and provides an increasing number of vital assists and goals, is still a level or two beneath the elite talent that a United team will need to challenge in the Champions League.
For the time being, though, Young represents excellent defensive balance on the left flank, an area in which Depay has some way to go. Young, for example, intercepts the ball almost four times as much as Depay does per 90 minutes, while winning slightly more tackles and balls in the air. If this season is anything to go by, Louis van Gaal will be cautious in easing his new players into the side.
The biggest question marks are over the futures of Angel Di Maria and Adnan Januzaj.
Juan Mata, due to both his excellent form and understanding with Ander Herrera, has seemingly established himself as a key playmaker in Van Gaal's plans. The same cannot be said for Di Maria and still less Januzaj.
Di Maria's form has been in decline since the 1-1 draw with Chelsea in October, when he was more muted than before. There are of course mitigating factors here, most notably the break-in that he and his family suffered at their home and his adaptation to Van Gaal's possession-based system.
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The former Real Madrid man's pass completion percentage is not much better than Depay's -- it is about 78 percent this season and though he creates almost as many chances per 90 minutes as Eden Hazard (2.84 to 2.87), his style of play is too chaotic for Van Gaal to trust him as a regular starter.
Di Maria has not looked particularly sharp in recent months, and whether that is sign of a longer-term disaffection is unclear. Paris Saint-Germain are looking for a winger -- evidenced by their interest in Depay -- and they are one of the few clubs in world football who could readily offer Di Maria an appealing exit should he desire one.
Yet the player who may be most worried by Depay's arrival is Januzaj. The Belgium international stands to fall further down the pecking order after a season when Van Gaal has had plenty of time to see what he is capable of, and has not seemed impressed.
Januzaj completes far fewer of his dribbles than Depay and poses far less of a goal threat, suggesting that he will need to get off to a fast start next season if he does not want to spend most of the campaign on the bench. He may be left to reflect how swiftly fortunes in football can change, although age remains on his side.
At 21, Depay is also young enough to learn plenty from Van Gaal and his age is as important an asset as any. While Depay is arguably as promising a talent as any out there, he still has a great deal of development to do, so United fans should be patient with him.
Van Gaal places great emphasis on possession football, with his wingers and midfielders regularly returning pass completion percentages of 90 percent or more. Meanwhile, Depay has managed a pass completion percentage of just 74 percent per 90 minutes in the Dutch league this season, down from 77 last season. This may be due to the out-and-out attacking role he has been given at PSV -- if so, he will have to rein in those individualistic instincts.
United fans should not be too concerned about his capacity to evolve. He has almost doubled the amount of goals he scored last year, when he recorded a tally of 14 in 43 games. He marries that eye for goal with impressive acceleration and is a very useful passer, creating just over two chances per 90 minutes. The Premier League, where high defensive lines are so often deployed, should suit him well.
There will inevitably be the caveat that, so far, Depay has only made his name in Dutch football. Yet this should not be too much of a problem. The Netherlands has often been a place from where players have made a comfortable transition to the Premier League, with Depay following in the footsteps of former PSV graduates Arjen Robben and Ruud van Nistelrooy. Indeed, the tales of those who do not make it, such as fellow PSV old boy Mateja Kezman, are far more rare than those who do.
Depay's acquisition will spell uncomfortable if not altogether bad news for most of his fellow wingers. For United fans, though, he also represents the type of player who can lead a brilliant new generation and a title threat both in England and Europe.
Musa Okwonga is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow on Twitter: @Okwonga.