David De Gea cost Man Utd and the club must move on

Many will think David de Gea should have done better for Man City's second place in the FA Cup final - Getty Images/James Williamson
Many will think David de Gea should have done better for Man City’s second place in the FA Cup final – Getty Images/James Williamson

In less than four weeks, David De Gea’s contract expires at Manchester United. There’s a new contract on the table and he wants to stay, but United are expected to sign a new first-choice keeper.

Unfortunately for De Gea, it’s all about diminishing returns. Even if he does sign, he will no longer be United’s highest-paid player, although how he achieved that status in the first place is an indictment of the club.

Dave saves? Well, the brutal truth is that it’s happening less and less and he was responsible for the goal Ilkay Gundogan bounced past him to secure the FA Cup and Manchester City’s second leg against United’s Treble.

The argument in De Gea’s favor is that he was relatively blind as the volley went through a thicket of players, but top goalkeepers make that save.

Instead, De Gea was not ready – a common criticism of him – when the corner kick was sent to the City captain at the edge of the penalty area, even though he had time to anticipate the shot that inevitably came from Gundogan’s weaker foot. De Gea was then slow to react as the ball bounced not once but twice.

No wonder Erik ten Hag stared long at the monitor in his technical area to find out how the goal was scored. He will not have liked what he saw and he should have made up his mind. If it wasn’t already. His face said it all.

De Gea put one glove on the ball but it wasn’t enough and it capped a campaign in which United’s perceived strongest link not so long ago has become a serious weakness in the chain . The 32-year-old’s greatest attribute, the one who was said to overcome his lack of ability with the ball at his feet – such a prerequisite in the modern game – was that he was a ‘good stopper’. ‘.

In fact, in the past three seasons he’s fallen below a 70 per cent save percentage in the Premier League – 69.93 this campaign, 68.85 the previous one and 65.22 before that. In seven of the previous nine seasons, he was above the mark. The trajectory is definitely in the wrong direction.

De Gea still won the Golden Glove for cleanest sheets – 17, two ahead of Liverpool’s Alisson – but that’s an anomaly. United have conceded 43 times in the league – 10 more than City or Newcastle United.

So there must be ruthlessness at United. Ten Hag has already said he can’t guarantee De Gea the number one spot and having made that statement, it’s worth suggesting it’s time to cut ties or sign a better first choice. De Gea’s country, Spain, has long since left him. His club too.

United are looking for a goalkeeper who is more comfortable in the build and more reliable. But it’s not a priority. It must be.

Undeniably, De Gea cost United. He was seriously at fault in their chaotic Europa League exit, as they fell back in the second leg of their quarter-final in Sevilla with a careless pass to put Harry Maguire under pressure which led to the first goal and an intervention thoughtless for the third.

De Gea was largely responsible for Manchester United's exit from the Europa League in April - Getty Images/Ash Donelon

De Gea was largely responsible for Manchester United’s exit from the Europa League in April – Getty Images/Ash Donelon

Even making his 540th appearance in goal for United, surpassing Alex Stepney’s record, De Gea blundered in the loss to West Ham United while coming back to that horrific 4-0 loss to Brentford also underscored his guilt.

With the release of Phil Jones, De Gea is now the only United player to know what it’s like to win the Premier League, having signed in 2011. But that’s not reason enough to keep him.

If United want to be competitive, they need to make a lot more wholesale changes than expected. The priority is a ‘number eight’ striker and midfielder, with Chelsea’s Mason Mount set to fill that role. Marcus Rashford needs support as this FA Cup has revealed United’s lack of dynamism in midfield with Christian Eriksen appearing to have run his course.

But United desperately need a goalkeeper. By contrast, Pep Guardiola was decisive upon his arrival at City, deciding Joe Hart had no future despite his status and longevity. It didn’t work out for Claudio Bravo but Guardiola quickly remedied that by signing Ederson.

Ten Hag must act the same way. Dean Henderson returns from loan at Nottingham Forest, but is he good enough to be United’s No1? That doesn’t appear to be the case, as Jack Butland’s loan spell at Crystal Palace comes to an end.

The pre-game and the talk had been of Guardiola taking a risk by rewarding Stefan Ortega with a starting spot rather than going for Ederson. But it shows how far ahead City are that the ensuing discussion was not about Ortega but about De Gea. United must fix it.

He saved Kevin de Bruyne well and did even better to deny Erling Haaland but the damage was already done and that’s without mentioning whether De Gea should have reacted to prevent Gundogan’s opening goal. It may sound harsh, but De Gea was barely on her toes in anticipation of the volley as she passed him in the opening seconds. A better keeper does better and United need a better keeper.

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