It’s not often that the second-choice goalkeeper of a football club is a World Cup finalist. It is even more uncommon for a football club having three top goalkeepers in their ranks to worry about that very same position.
De Gea has for many years been one of Manchester United’s most steadfast players, one of the last remaining vestiges of the brilliance of former league-winning sides that typified the Red Devils of yore.
The Spaniard has had an illustrious career by any standards, especially at the club level. Multiple silverware winning campaigns for both Manchester United and Atletico Madrid were also embellished by individual awards.
He has won the Sir Matt Busby Award for the best player of the season at Manchester United for four seasons, a unique feat and emblematic of his sustained brilliance in a rebuilding side that have lived in the shadows of the titans that dominated Old Trafford once.
However, all that has changed dramatically over the last few seasons. It all began as apparent aberrations with the Spanish No.1 spilling harmless long-rangers that crept into the net.
Off days, they thought, they happen to the best. However, David de Gea carried this weakness into the grandest of stages, the World Cup, and the world finally took notice of the brilliant man’s fatal foibles when he let a Cristiano Ronaldo shot from distance roll past the line.
Many keepers, such as England’s Rob Green, have been tarred forever by a similar error in the same tournament. David de Gea had a higher pedigree and a huge list of achievements to tide over these mistakes.
Beyond the point of no return
However, this was not to be, those aberrations quickly became a permanent flaw in his technique and the goalkeeper continued making game-conceding errors that have become too apparent.
The final nail in the coffin for David de Gea has to be the two errors he made in the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea that dumped Manchester United out of the tournament and finally made Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has always been highly supportive of the error-prone custodian, to remark publicly that no position is secure in his team.
This brings us to back to the first line of this piece, and the second line as well. Manchester United had played Argentina international, Sergio Romero in goal in cup fixtures for some seasons now, a phenomenon that goes back even before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took charge of the club.
Romero has often made crucial saves in these cup ties and always looked match-ready whenever called upon to do duty. His exploits led Manchester United to a Europa League triumph under Jose Mourinho as well.
In fact, Mourinho had stated that David de Gea cannot start in the final of that competition because it had been Sergio Romero’s tournament all throughout.
The 33-year-old has been Argentina’s premier goalkeeper for years and played in a World Cup final with them way back in 2014. He is also the country’s most-capped keeper.
It is baffling that he is the second-choice at Old Trafford, and that has only been the case because of how steady David de Gea has been for the Red Devils during his time.
However, it is probably time for the former Sampdoria goalkeeper to be given a steadier run in the league as well. De Gea needs to spend time on the sidelines to contemplate on where things have gone wrong.
He still possesses amazing shot-stopping abilities and sweeper-keeper attributes, but a goalkeeper needs to be tuned in for the entirety of a game and his consistent errors have become too prominent to ignore further.
This is a challenging time for David de Gea, who was once touted to be too good a player to stay in an underperforming Manchester United side and was heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid.
It is safe to say that offer is not on the table anymore. Critics have been extremely scathing on the Madrid-born custodian after his latest howlers. Jose Mourinho feels he is past his prime, while former goalkeeper Mark Bosnich has discovered errors in technique and balance.
His teammates have also reportedly noticed a drop in performance in training. It is high time that David de Gea is held accountable for his gaffes and works on revitalising his game.
Dean Henderson the future?
All that brings us to the one who is being touted as the long-term goalkeeping future of the club. Dean Henderson, currently on loan at Sheffield United, is one of the hottest new prospects among guardians of the goal, the way David de Gea once was.
Henderson is not yet the finished article but has enough talent for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to contemplate bringing him into the first-team fold next season. A dramatic decision could even see him elevated to become the first-choice goalkeeper of the team next season.
The 23-year-old has also been linked with a move to Chelsea and many, including Jose Mourinho, have already backed him to replace David de Gea as Manchester United’s main keeper in the coming months.
Reports suggest that Henderson will only return if guaranteed the No.1 spot, putting Solskjaer in a tricky spot.
While that question will be answered in the future, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should drop David de Gea for the two final games of the Premier League as Manchester United chase Champions League qualification.
The point of no return for David de Gea has been reached for now, and the Spaniard needs to redeem himself.