In June 2011, David de Gea received both the ultimate blessing – and the deadliest challenge. His transfer to reigning Premier League champions Manchester United was just reward for a stellar season with Atletico Madrid. However, he was also tasked with replacing the retired Edwin Van der Sar between the sticks.
Van der Sar is, of course, well-known for being the man to keep a record number of consecutive clean sheets in the world’s toughest league. Liverpool’s record broken, De Gea could not have wished to join United at a better time – and the rest is history. After being a title runner-up in his first season and a winner in his second, David De Gea’s reign as number one custodian has seen United fall from grace.
United have not come anywhere near winning the title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure. With shocking defensive performances, the likes of which would have been unheard of in the Ferguson era, still manifesting on occasion, many now hold the belief that Jose Mourinho should cut the club’s losses and sell De Gea to Real Madrid.
With De Gea valued at around £60m, United’s vast resources and influence over European football would be vastly augmented in the event of the Spanish shot stopper’s sale. Opinions as to the identity of his replacement vary from the realistic to the insane, but with Phil Neville recently suggesting a bid for Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris, Mourinho will be inwardly conflicted.
In typical circumstances, moving from White Hart Lane to Old Trafford would most certainly be a natural course of progression for Lloris. However, with United currently 2/1 to secure a top-four finish in the online betting and Tottenham virtually guaranteed Champions League football in 2017/18, a successful bid and transfer would be a minor miracle for United.
Between De Gea and Lloris, it is the latter who wins the statistical battle in every goalkeeping category – bar catching, but even then Lloris’ catching opportunities are limited, thanks to a far more accomplished defence.
Therefore, if Mourinho is to pursue Lloris, his superior distribution will need to be facilitated by a more direct style. Further summer expenditure would be necessary for United to acquire players (in the same mould, perhaps, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic) with the physical presence and hold-up abilities necessary to maintain the effectiveness of a direct system.
When United’s famous ‘Class of 92’ was at its peak, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the leadership on an off the pitch was unmatched by any other team in the league. Today, that is not the case, with current captain Wayne Rooney apparently set for a summer exit from Old Trafford after thirteen years’ service.
The suggestion, then, is that the cause of United’s shortcomings is not necessarily below-par goalkeeping. For that reason, United should do everything they can to keep De Gea for at least one more season.