English Premier League

Has De Gea become a liability for Manchester United?

De Gea has been undroppable ever since he established himself as one of the Premier League’s top shot-stoppers. If there were any doubts, his heroics in the 18/19 EPL season, which saw him save 11 shots in the second half against Spurs, should cement his status as a goalkeeper of high calibre. The United hierarchy rewarded De Gea’s performances by making him the highest-paid player in the squad in 2019. With the high salary, one could expect De Gea to at least maintain his high levels of performance and consistency.

However, his performances this season have been nothing but abysmal. According to Opta, “since the start of last season, no player has made more errors leading to goals in the Premier League than David de Gea (6)”. Most of his errors have come against smaller teams like Watford, who have been in a relegation battle this season. When United are competing against smaller teams, they dominate possession for most of the game. Smaller teams are comfortable employing the low block against a United team that becomes toothless against the low block tactic. With United dominating possession most of the game, they become susceptible to counterattacks. This could mean De Gea, who has nothing for most of the match, could have certain lapses in concentration that has resulted in as many as six mistakes. De Gea has shown that he is capable of maintaining his concentration with magnificent saves from previous seasons, but it appears that he could be at the start of a decline.

Support for De Gea is essential to his performances, especially when he is low on confidence. However, with his deteriorating mentality and concentration, Solskjær must be ruthless in his decision-making. De Gea needs to be dropped or sold. De Gea’s blunders have caused United to drop precious points in their quest for a top four finish. Should the Reds boss continue to put his faith in De Gea? So far, Solskjær’s loyalty to the Spaniard has been misplaced.

De Gea has not shown loyalty to United either. He goes where the money is. At 28, he is supposed to be at the peak of his career. Instead, his poor performances with the national team during the 2018 World Cup and with United seem to encapsulate his diminishing concentration. Money has been a big motivating factor in him staying at United, with his flirtation with Real Madrid leading to the United hierarchy giving him a wage increase. One might even argue that his abysmal performances with Spain during the World Cup have essentially diminished his chances of playing for Los Blancos. This would mean that staying with United would be his best option, as he has already received legendary status as a goalkeeper and he is essentially guaranteed a first team place with the highest wage in the team.

Solskjær should consider shipping De Gea out of Old Trafford and turn to Dean Henderson, who is currently on loan at Sheffield United. Henderson has 10 clean sheets this season, ranking him second for most clean sheets in the Premier League. His performances have helped Sheffield United to 7th on the league table and just two points off Manchester United. At 23, Henderson could benefit being at United and being a regular starter. This would ensure stability and longevity in defence. Starting Henderson would be in line with Solskjær’s philosophy of having a young and hungry team challenging for the title. Considering this is Henderson’s first season playing in the Premier League, it could mean that he could just be having a wonder season. However, he has been consistent for Sheffield United and he has the potential to be world-class in the near future if he is developed well. Shipping De Gea out could prove to be a big gamble but I believe that this could be an opportunity for Henderson to have a break on this promising United team. Rebuilding from defence would certainly provide a sense of foundation and create longevity with a young backline. Ultimately, the decision lies with Solskjær but getting Henderson into this young United team could prove fruitful in the long run.

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