Memphis Depay got off the mark for Manchester United by hitting two impressive first-half goals against Club Brugge in the 3-1 win at Old Trafford and earning widespread acclaim for his efforts.
The Dutch 21-year-old arrived in Manchester with a reputation as one of the best young players in Europe, notably ending the 2014/15 campaign as Eredivisie top scorer for PSV Eindhoven, but he was left a little frustrated after two Barclays Premier League games, against Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa, without a goal.
Louis van Gaal rightly preached patience for a young player still adapting to a new style of play in English football but, against Belgian opposition in the Champions League play-off round first leg, Memphis got his United account off to a flying start.
His control, run and shot pulled the scores back to 1-1 on 13 minutes after Club Brugge took the lead via a free-kick which deflected off Adnan Januzaj and then Michael Carrick. But he went one better two minutes before half time with a stunning strike, cutting in from the left and curling home a shot into the far corner.
Memphis was proud to score his first two goals at Old Trafford, but admitted he was slightly disappointed not to polish off an impressive performance by completing his hat-trick.
“I ended the last season with a lot of goals,” he told BT Sport. “If you come to a big club you have to score and do the job, and of course it’s a nice feeling to score at Old Trafford, my first two goals. [But] tonight I will think about that last chance and I am a little bit disappointed. I’ll forget it tomorrow.”
Team-mate and fellow Dutchman Daley Blind added: “I think Memphis is a player and a personality who already has a lot of confidence. I’ve said before he has a lot of qualities, he has a very strong shot, he is strong on the pitch and works very hard to improve that and I am very delighted that he has scored twice today.”
MUTV pundit and ex-Reds boss Ron Atkinson likened Memphis to a former United no.7: “I remember seeing Cristiano Ronaldo here as a young player and I think Memphis has got something similar. His two goals came from cutting inside from the left and he’s got a great strike. He will be a real crowd-pleaser here at Old Trafford. I’m impressed by him.”
The manager van Gaal was effusive in his praise for his summer signing, joking: “I want to kiss him tonight! He’s never satisfied. I like that. You have to know what you are doing and also what you can do and then your desire to improve is higher. And that’s Memphis.”
Arjen Robben had his say on his Netherlands colleague: “He can become one of the top players in the world at Manchester United. Memphis can become the complete player under Louis van Gaal’s guidance.”
Man of the Match vote:
The Dutchman’s superb strikes earned him 82 per cent of votes cast by followers of @ManUtd on Twitter. Chris Smalling came second with 11 per cent, while Luke Shaw’s impressive display at left-back earned seven per cent.