Guus Hiddink believes Memphis Depay’s form is suffering because he is having to overcome the pressure of being one of Holland’s brightest prospects while adjusting to the demands of the Barclays Premier League.
Manchester United spent £31million to recruit the talented forward from PSV Eindhoven in the summer when he was already a member of Hiddink’s Holland national team – but like so many in a United shirt this season he has struggled to make an impression under manager Louis van Gaal.
Hiddink, who has since begun his second reign as Chelsea’s interim manager, may not even see Depay play on Monday when Chelsea visit Old Trafford.
Depay was substituted at half-time in United’s 2-0 defeat at Stoke after his mistake led to the Potters’ opening goal – but Hiddink has defended the forward’s “talent”, and says the solution to improving his form comes in patience and with the assistance of United’s more senior players.
“He’s a very young guy,” said Hiddink, who oversaw a 2-2 draw with Watford in his first game back at Stamford Bridge. “When he was in Holland he was one of the star players, at a very young age.
“There is a lack of star players in Holland who are playing already many years in their league so at a young age he was bombarded as one of the big talents.
“He has this talent but he’s also now having a confrontation with the demands of the Premier League, which are much higher in intensity of the game during 90 minutes.
“That’s a period all players, not just him, have to overcome, and I think they need time for that.
“He has this talent, but he’s also giving interviews saying ‘hey, I have to get used to another way of playing, the intensity of the games every three days, plus the intensity of the game’. Those guys, they need a bit the cover of experienced players.”
An improved performance and two goals from the previously-disappointing Diego Costa against Watford will have encouraged Hiddink – but the striker collected a fifth yellow card which means he will be suspended from Monday’s fixture, likely presenting a rare opportunity for Loic Remy.
“It’s a setback because (Costa’s) now increasing his performance,” Hiddink said. “I can complain a lot…but that’s not my nature, we have to go on and find a solution as soon as possible, but it’s a setback.
“This league is a very intense league. The teams who are, even in December, competing for being in the first four, like Leicester, Crystal Palace, and Watford, it’s not just by surprise, because they’re well-organised, they have skilful players – and then you can be beaten also by them.
“United were first, second, and they’re now in a difficult period – but they have to react for themselves.
“We go there and it will be difficult, but we go with hope. I hope this team will show in every game the ambition they showed (against Watford) in going for a win anywhere.”