Abu Dhabi: Jordi Cruyff fears his fellow Dutchman Memphis Depay could end up a Manchester United misfit like the Red Devils’ current striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was at Barcelona.
The out-of-favour winger has made only six appearances for Jose Mourinho’s side this season and 33 in total since joining from PSV Eindhoven in June 2015.
The former attacking midfielder Cruyff also found life difficult at Old Trafford, where he played just 34 times and scored eight goals between 1996 and 2000 after moving from Barcelona.
As such, he’s well placed to comment on Depay’s struggles and feels the 22-year-old may become a victim of the intense competition for places at United.
Reports in the British press this week suggested that Depay is a loan target for Everton in the January transfer window, so will he get a chance to prove himself under Mourinho?
“He’s young and the first year is always an adaptation year,” Cruyff told Gulf News in an exclusive interview to promote his legendary and late father Johan’s autobiography ‘My Turn’.
“In the second year, you can feel more loose, but with the managerial change [of Mourinho replacing Louis van Gaal in the summer], and many new players, that second year he might have needed hasn’t come.
“United are also a club that cannot be four or five years without really competing to win things. There may be more changes, but I hope he will not be one of those victims and in the wrong club at the wrong time.
“For sure, United are an amazing club, but I also think Depay is a good player.”
The former Dutch international midfielder, now technical director of Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv, said even the world’s greatest players such as Ibrahimovic fail to adapt to certain clubs.
The Swedish striker may have won 13 league titles in four different countries, but he lasted only a season at Barcelona in 2009-10 after falling out with boss Pep Guardiola.
“For whatever reason, a certain player and club don’t connect,” Cruyff, 42, continued. “Even Ibrahimovic when he came to Barcelona, he was an amazing player, but it didn’t happen for him. It doesn’t mean the club are bad or the player is bad.”
Depay arrived at United for £25 million (Dh115.31 million) in June 2015 with a reputation as one of the brightest young talents in Dutch football.
He scored 50 goals in 124 appearances for PSV between 2011 and 2015 and also excelled for the Netherlands, netting twice at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil en route to their third-place finish and his own nomination for the Best Young Player award.
But Depay’s form for his country has since dramatically dipped and he came on for only 23 minutes as a substitute in the Netherlands’ 1-1 home friendly draw with Belgium on Wednesday.
Does Cruyff, whose father passed away in March, feel Depay needs to move to revive his flagging career?
“I would need to have a daily opinion to give advice like this,” he replied. “In terms of stats, he’s not getting enough minutes, but I don’t know the ins and outs. But for sure, he has potential and he’s showed that. Now the trick is to get that potential out on a weekly basis. Eventually it will come, but you just don’t know where and when.”
Depay’s ailing fortunes mirror those of the Dutch, who failed to qualify for Euro 2016 after finishing fourth in their group and currently lie third in their 2018 World Cup qualifying pool.
What did Cruyff’s dad, who was a 1974 World Cup runner-up and the greatest player in his country’s history, make of this decline?
“My father said many times that [Dutch] youth education should be more specific and trained to make players better,” said Cruyff, who played between 1994 and 2010. “But he also knew that you sometimes don’t have a good generation.”