Time for Depay to walk the talk
Dutch attacker has big boots to fill at United following exits of van Persie and Falcao
MAN UNITED v TOTTENHAM
(Tonight, 7.45pm, Singtel TV Ch 102 & StarHub TV Ch 227)
He arrived at Old Trafford with a reputation as one of the brightest prospects of his generation.
He believes he's at "the biggest club in the world", for whom he vowed to smash in the goals.
He asked for Manchester United's iconic No. 7 shirt, previously donned by luminaries such as George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Now, Memphis Depay has to walk the talk.
The 21-year-old must prove his worth to his employers who saw it wise to invest £31 million ($66.8m) in the former PSV Eindhoven star.
Tonight, he can take the first steps to repaying the faith Louis van Gaal placed in him by taking him to the Theatre of Dreams.
Memphis is one of many high-profile signings made by the veteran Dutchman since he took over from David Moyes a United side depleted in confidence and style a year ago.
A convincing win against Tottenham Hotspur tonight will lay down a clear marker.
United will be desperate to show that they are not about to lapse into the early-season mediocrity that quickly derailed their title hopes last season.
Van Gaal's plans for Depay outlined just how central the effervescent attacker is to his recipe for success.
With Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao gone, United are left with Wayne Rooney as their only experienced specialist striker, with Javier Hernandez's future at the club still unclear.
Depay topped the Dutch Eredivisie's goal-scoring chart last season with 22 goals for PSV - but mostly operating from the wings.
Van Gaal believes that the Holland international, who can play on the left, right, or through the middle, can address his striking problems because of his versatility.
"Maybe you remember that he has also played in the striker's position in the Dutch national team," said the wily tactician.
Depay's superb technique at set-pieces adds to his formidable repertoire.
But, if he is indeed going to play as a striker, and considering that it was van Persie who was there before him, then those are big boots to fill.
And there is a cautionary tale to heed.
Angel di Maria's ill-fated Premiership stint should remind Depay of the challenges ahead.
Di Maria's pace and panache on the flanks made him a manager's dream, but his Old Trafford adventure turned into a nightmare.
Often played out of position in van Gaal's structured approach, the Argentinian, signed for a British record of £59.7m just last August, had his wings clipped.
He couldn't adapt to the physical nature of the Premiership, and now he finds himself at Paris Saint-Germain.
But, unlike di Maria, Depay knows what he is in for.
He was part of the Holland squad that van Gaal led to third place at last year's World Cup.
Van Gaal, he said, was why he chose to go to United despite interest from Europe's top clubs, including Bayern Munich.
And he has expressed his willingness to put in his maximum effort wherever the manager deploys him.
Now, it's time to show that he's worth all the hubbub.
- Everton v Watford (10pm)
- Bournemouth v Aston Villa (10pm)
- Leicester v Sunderland (10pm)
- Norwich v Crystal Palace (10pm)
- Chelsea v Swansea (12.30am)
- Arsenal v West Ham (8.30pm)
- Newcastle v Southampton (8.30pm)
- Stoke v Liverpool (11pm)
- West Brom v Man City (3pm)
LVG: De Gea not ready
Louis van Gaal says goalkeeper David de Gea is not ready to start Manchester United's Premier League season-opener against Tottenham tonight.
The Spain international, who has been the subject of interest from Real Madrid all summer, started the final two games of United's pre-season tour of the United States, but is not ready to play in the first game of the season.
"He shall not play," the United boss said yesterday. "I think a human being is more than only a player, and he (de Gea, above) cannot manage that."
Senior figures at United have insisted that the club would sell de Gea only if they received Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos as part of a swop deal.
"We have problems of course with de Gea," van Gaal added.
The manager has only limited options when it comes to a replacement for their two-time Player of the year.
Victor Valdes has been frozen out after van Gaal claimed the former Barcelona goalkeeper told him that he would not play for the Under-21 side last season.
Sam Johnstone started the other two games of United's tour but is yet to make a competitive appearance for the club. Last season, he spent time on loan at Doncaster and Preston.
The most likely alternative appears to be Sergio Romero, who signed for the club on a free transfer last week.
But, when asked if the Argentina's No. 1 would start the lunch-time kick-off at Old Trafford, van Gaal said: "You have to wait and see who is starting."
Anders Lindegaard is another option, but the Dane has never played under van Gaal and is not currently in favour.
When asked what he thought the outcome of the de Gea saga would be, van Gaal said: "I don't know. That's in process.
"I cannot lead this process - I can only watch and observe and that's what I'm doing, but I'm not participating in it."
The build-up to United's season-opener has been far from ideal for van Gaal.
As well as the de Gea situation, the Dutchman has had to stomach the sale of Angel di Maria.
United paid £59.7 million ($129m) for the Argentinian star last summer but, less than 12 months later, he has left for Paris St Germain.
Di Maria claimed at his unveiling in the French capital on Thursday that United wanted him out of the club, but van Gaal seems to think otherwise.
"For us, that's a big loss," van Gaal said of the midfielder. "I want more attackers with speed and creativity. Di Maria is one of those players so we have to look for that kind of player, but they have to have the talent to cope with the English rhythm and that's difficult to find.
"That's why players are not having success in this competition - because of the rhythm of the game and the English culture is another culture as the Latin culture. Maybe that's a reason (he left)."
Van Gaal is expected to sign Barcelona forward Pedro as di Maria's replacement.
As well as de Gea, van Gaal confirmed new summer signing Bastian Schweinsteiger is not available tonight.
"Schweinsteiger came (to us) at the last moment, out of his holidays," van Gaal said of the former Bayern Munich midfielder.
"I don't think he's fit enough, so we have to build him to the fitness I think he needs."
Another player who is unlikely to feature is defender Marcos Rojo, who missed the second leg of United's tour because of passport issues. - PA Sport.
Pellegrini: I have to deliver
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini admits he now has to deliver titles after signing a new two-year contract.
The Chilean was entering the final year of his previous deal but has now agreed an extension to 2017 in a move that could quell speculation linking Bayern Munich's Pep Guardiola with his position.
Pellegrini, 61, won the Premier League in his first season at City in 2013 but, after last year's disappointing campaign, he accepts improvement is necessary.
Pellegrini said: "It is very important for the club to trust in our work.
"But you know in this profession you need results, so it is very important for me to have a good season and get good results. For me, a good season with a big team is that you must win a title (trophy). You cannot say it is a very good season if you win nothing."
- PA Sport.
ONE FM 91.3 DJ, Man United fan
MAN UNITED v SPURS
- Who will win and why?
Man United. I am very impressed with their line-up. With the players they have, they are just too strong for Spurs. With the addition of Matteo Darmian, the defence looks more resilient now. I also have a feeling Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero will play. It's a pretty awesome side Louis van Gaal has assembled. I hope he gives Memphis Depay the licence to attack all the way.
- Your hopes for your team this season?
They definitely have to do better than last season. Top three, at least, with the crazy spending and all that.
They have to win this game, "bo pian" (slang for no choice), die die must win (surely must win).
- Your prediction: Man United to beat Spurs 2-0.