In 2011 Manchester United signed David De Gea for a then record fee of £18.9 million at the tender age of 21. Having lit up between the posts of Athletico Madrid at just 18 he quickly became a star in the making. With the departures of Fabian Barthez, Massimo Taibi and Mark Bosnich all failing to make the grade at Old Trafford this was a challenge in itself.

Lack of experience

With Edwin Van Der Sar leaving at the age of 40 it is always said that the best keepers come into their own in their 30’s. De Gea would go on to prove that age is just a number with displays that earned him 4 player of the year awards. His early days were full of tests with some teams setting out to upset him in his opening games. Teams like Stoke and West Brom used to target the young keeper from set-pieces with some heavy handed challenges but De Gea rose to the occasion.

Unorthodox

De gea is something of an enigma in goalkeeping circles with the manner in which he provides some pivotal saves. No keeper in memory has ever managed to make so many crucial stops without using his hands! It was something that served him well until recently but now it seems to be grabbing the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

Start of the decline

Any keeper can make mistakes and it would not be uncommon place in football. The problem lies when this is repeated and when you play for such a massive club in United. Thanks to Gary Neville’s antics in the studio his mistake against Watford went viral as he allowed a simple header to slip through his hands. This was the compounded as suddenly we could also talk about errors against Arsenal and Everton all within months of each other.

International Duty

Spain was also no place to hide for the De Gea as even his countrymen seemed to turn on him in his time of need. During the 2018 Fifa World Cup campaign he was lambasted for a series of poor games. Even stats showed that he as conceding with almost every shot on goal. Of course this was also due to the fact that he took over from a legend in Ilker Cassilas after unmitigated success.

5 Year Contract

Of course the incredible part in this decline is that fact that he came within a single page FAX of being possibly sold to Real Madrid in 2015. At the time it would have been unthinkable to sell one of their prized possessions. De Gea went on to win Golden Gloves awards, was a consistent in the Team of the Year and was a fans favourite. He of course signed a contract then as the club simply couldn’t afford to let go of their crown jewel. But now 5 years on he is on 350k per week and it would be difficult to find a suitor.

How about his Peers

Chelsea’s Kepa and Hugo Lloris at Spurs can give De Gea some solace in many ways. Kepa took the mantle of worlds most expensive Keeper. He has since struggled to make the desired impact in a Blue shirt. But has turned his fortunes somewhat this season.

Lloris though should be an inspiration for him as he has had some high profile errors. Most notably allowing a soft goal in the world cup final, without destroying his confidence. Ask any Spurs fan and Lloris simply has that in his locker. But maybe his biggest talent is his ability to be made out of teflon! His ability to forget and move on. His mental strength is impeccable.

Alternative Option

Dean Henderson’s stock has risen over the course of the season. He would not have even been mentioned in the same breath as De Gea before this season started. Imagine the pressure he would be under if he was recalled next season and installed as the no1. The worlds eyes would not move off the youngster. It would be a brave move for both manager and player. Look at what the spotlight has done to Jordan Pickford since becoming the England International team top stopper. Every goal conceded is suddenly scrutinised more than before.

The Verdict

At this point in time we are 2 games away from the season ending. United have a very able deputy in Romero that they can use if the manager chooses that option. Ole Gunner Solskjaer has already come to the aid of his shot stopper and so he should.

Does he save his keeper from any more bad press or does he have no choice but to stand by his no.1? There is not a top team in the world right now that would take a gamble on De Gea. And with a massive wage and price tag attached it would be madness. Something has changed in him.

He looks bereft of confidence. He almost looks a broken man. What do you do with a shot stopper that cannot stop? Memories of Massimo Taibi making an error against Liverpool 17 years ago practically ended his brief career. Ruthless. De Gea’s time is surely up at Old Trafford.