Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal hopes Memphis Depay can come back “stronger than before” after the forward was a surprise omission from the Netherlands squad to face Wales.
Depay has struggled to acclimatise to life at Old Trafford since a high-profile close-season switch from PSV.
He last started a Premier League match when United lost 3-0 at Arsenal on October 4 and he came off early with a knock when restored to the first XI as Van Gaal’s men crashed out of the League Cup on penalties against Middlesbrough in midweek.
The 21-year-old’s stock has also fallen in his homeland, where he became something of a scapegoat as Netherlands failed to qualify for Euro 2016.
National team boss Danny Blind opted against including Depay for the first step of the rebuilding process against Wales later this month but Van Gaal, who managed the player as he guided Netherlands to third place in the World Cup in 2014, believes fans of club and country need to show patience.
“I have said he is the greatest talent of his age but he is only 21 and you cannot expect consistency,” the United manager said at a media conference before his team’s Champions League home match against CSKA Moscow.
“He is at a stage of his career where he must adapt to many things. I’m convinced he’s coming back, maybe stronger than before but we have to give him time – like we will with [Anthony] Martial when he is a little bit lower in his shape.”
Van Gaal also said that Depay could focus on establishing himself as an out-and-out striker as opposed to a player who operates across the forward positions.
“I’m always thinking in the team’s benefit and not in the benefit of one player,” he added.
“I have said I have to make all the decisions around the game plan and the opponent, so it’s not that I have said left wing is his best position, but he can play in three positions in his eyes – left, striker and number 10.
“I think his best position may be the striker’s position. He is very young but I think it is better he develops in the striker’s position.”