There is an old saying in football: never go back. Manchester United have learned this lesson the hard way on multiple occasions in recent times.
Having emerged as a talented youngster, Paul Pogba was left with nothing to join Juventus in 2012 only to return for a world record fee four years later. The Serie A giants had Banks laughing over the summer when they signed the Frenchman – for free – for the second time.
The departure of Cristiano Ronaldo on Tuesday was even more painful for the fans. Unlike Pogba, the Portuguese superstar cemented his status as a club legend during his first spell at Old Trafford.
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Numerous premier leagues and Champions League titles have placed Ronaldo alongside famous sevens like George Best, Bryan Robson and David Beckham. However, the well-documented antics – which led to his explosive exit – broke a previously private bond.
Even finding an example that bucks the trend in other clubs is daunting. Some, like Fernando Torres at Atlético Madrid or Robin van Persie at Feyenoord, could claim they do, but in truth, they simply joined previous clubs at the end of their careers and were never the same player.
This is why it is surprising to see Memphis Depay linked with a return to United. The Dutchman arrived in 2015 and endured a miserable 18 months at Old Trafford.
Billed as the future of Dutch football, Depay – who reportedly cost him £30m – scored just seven goals in 53 appearances before being written off by yet another Ed Woodward fiasco.
Since then, the 28-year-old has rebuilt his career on the continent with Lyon before joining Barcelona. Three games for the La Liga giants in 2022-23 saw Depay become surplus to requirements – hence United’s links.
With club chiefs tasked with replacing one of the greatest goalscorers of all time, it is alarming how Depay has only scored 20 league goals in two seasons in his entire career. Perhaps Eric ten Hag sees his compatriot as a short-term solution, with the January transfer window difficult for him to do business with.
But United risk signing another striker/winger along the lines of Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial. Attracting a top-class striker to Old Trafford is quite an obvious requirement, and if there is any positive from Ronaldo’s exit, it is that their transfer priority has been revealed.
Barcelona seem happy to send Depay away in much the same way they did Jose Mourinho almost five years ago. If United re-sign their previous failure, it will prove they have failed to learn football’s costly lesson.