Ultimate United Blog


Who Could blame De Gea if he leaves?

Added by Philip Meese on 26 Oct 2018 18:27

In light of José Mourinho’s comments that he doesn’t believe David de Gea will pen a new deal, we ask the question, who could blame him if he doesn’t?

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By Philip Meese, Chief Editor

It emerged earlier today that Manchester United manager José Mourinho is not expecting David de Gea to sign a new deal. The Spanish goalkeeper has been at Old Trafford since 2011, and his current deal is due to run out at the end of the season, although United do have the option of extending by an extra year.

The situation means that if de Gea cannot be persuaded to ink a new contract before next summer, United may have no option but to involve the extension and sell him. This will no doubt provoke angry reactions from some fans, but can anyone really blame him for not wanting to stay in the current climate?

He’s Come a Long Way

When de Gea first arrived in Manchester just over seven years ago, he was a 20 year old bag of bones, who looked anything but able to cope with the demands of the English game. During his first two seasons at Old Trafford, fantastic reaction saves were tempered by several mistakes which often saw him dropped in favour of Anders Lindegaard.

In truth, it wasn’t until after the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013 that everyone began to see what all the hype was about. Under David Moyes’ stewardship, United were an absolute mess going from champions to 7th place in just one year. Had it not been for de Gea, who won the clubs Player of the Year award for the first time that term, United might have finished in the bottom half of the table, so poor were they during that season. This was the first of three consecutive awards (the first player in United’s history to do so) and he won his fourth last season, just for good measure.

World Class

In the current setup, it is probably fair to say that David de Gea is the only undisputed world class player at Manchester United. Fans of Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial may argue that United’s French contingent also fall into that category, but it’s just not the same. The reason that players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are bracketed as world class (in fact, they are probably a level even higher than that) is that they perform to the best of their abilities practically every week, and have done for over a decade. In almost every game they play, they show exactly why they are rated as highly as they are.

Pogba and Martial definitely have world class potential, there is no questioning the talent of either player. But until they start doing the business every week, and United start regularly winning games because of their efforts, they cannot put themselves in that bracket. Alexis Sánchez, who is also rumoured to be on his way out of Old Trafford less than a year after his arrival, has shown it over the years with Barcelona and Arsenal, but not yet in a United shirt.

The reality is that over the last five years, de Gea has pulled out a world class save in almost every game United have played. These are the sort of saves that win matches, the kind that most other goalkeepers don’t produce. This is why many fans, whether they support United or not, rate him as the best in the world.

Better than Schmeichel?

When Ultimate United was first set up, one of our regular series of articles was whether de Gea could be better than legendary Danish goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel. Many United fans rate him the best of all time, especially those who followed the club in the 1990’s. There can be no doubt he is one of the greatest keepers ever to play the game but, in my opinion, de Gea has surpassed him in terms of ability.

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This may be a controversial opinion but there are several factors to consider, whoever you may believe is the best. Schmeichel only ever played in successful teams, and in the eight years he was at Old Trafford the Red Devils never finished lower than 2nd in the league table. He played behind defenders such as Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, Denis Irwin, Jaap Stam, Gary Neville and Ronny Johnsen. Even the less lauded defenders such as David May, Henning Berg and Paul Parker were far better than what de Gea has had protecting his area for the majority of his time in England.

Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Marcos Rojo wouldn’t even get a squad number for the teams Schmeichel played in. Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidić and Patrice Evra were at Old Trafford when de Gea signed but all three were probably at their peak at that point, if not a little bit past it. Edwin van der Sar was the one who got the pleasure of playing behind them at their absolute best.

Another factor that puts de Gea ahead of Schmeichel is the range of saves he can come up with. The great Dane saved United on so many occasions, but the best saves he produced were usually as result of the way he seemed to be able to make his already huge frame even bigger. De Gea seems to be able to pull off saves that he has no right to make, with almost any part of his body. His awareness and anticipation of where the ball is going to travel is far greater than any goalkeeper in United’s history. This is how he saves so many shots that would beat most others.

He Deserves Better

United fans rejoiced when de Gea did a U-turn in 2015, signing a new contract after flirting with a move to Real Madrid all summer. That should have been the catalyst for United to start planning how they were going to turn around the mess that they were in, even back then. The truth is that the club look even less of a title contender now than at any time since Ferguson left. Yes, they finished second last season but the reality is that they were closer to 6th placed Arsenal than champions Manchester City. De Gea is the only player who would get in Pep Guardiola’s side; any City who disputes this now they have Ederson, ask them how he would fare if he was behind United’s current defence.

Real Madrid signed Thibaut Courtois from Chelsea during the summer transfer window which would seem to end their interest in de Gea, at least in the immediate future. Make no mistake, however, there would be no shortage of top European sides interested in his services if he were to become available. Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain are just two clubs to be been linked with him lately, and given how the Turin giants performed at Old Trafford on Tuesday night, who could blame him for having his head turned by them?

A goalkeeper of de Gea’s calibre would be an asset to any squad in world football, and he deserves to play in a team at the same level. The fact that opposition sides aren’t afraid to come to Old Trafford anymore, all of them confident that they can get a result, tells its own story. At the moment it looks like the only way United will be in next season’s Champions League is they either win it this season, or they finish third in their group, drop down to the Europa League and win that. Neither of those scenarios seem likely at the moment. With the club 10th in the table at the moment, it would take a very confident gambler to bet on Mourinho’s side finishing in the top four.

Given that he is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, if not the best, it seems fair to expect that he will want to win the top honours in the game. His international team are a shadow of the side that won the World Cup, sandwiched in between two European Championship victories. If United can’t provide him with a setup where he can challenge for the top honours, why should he waste his peak years at a club that doesn’t match his ambitions? He has already given us more years that most players would have done.

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Final Thought

Remember when Wayne Rooney told United he wanted to leave to in 2010, it sparked protests from fans and even death threats. People were camped outside his house to hurl abuse. In some fans eyes his legacy has been tarnished forever after he signed a new contract a week later, which made him the highest paid player in England at the time. The situation with de Gea is unlikely to be resolved in the same way this time.

Back then, Rooney had also expressed concern at the way the club was headed, but he was persuaded to sign a new deal on the sort of money even Ronaldo didn’t earn. It is hard to see de Gea signing a new deal just because of a pay hike this time. Let’s face it, any club he goes to will most likely pay him the sort of money United can offer. It’s not about that.

All that the top brass at United seem concerned about is making money, and qualifying for the Champions League; something which is by no means a certainty this time around. De Gea wants to win it, and every other major trophy he can lay his hands on. Despite being the biggest club in England, and one of the biggest in the world, United haven’t once challenged for the Premier League title since Ferguson retired.

At the age of 27, he probably has around another ten years at the very top of his game. Who could honestly blame him, after more than seven years, for wanting to win the sort of trophies that Manchester United are not even challenging for?

Given the state of the club, if United can persuade David de Gea to sign a new contract, it would be an even bigger achievement than when they held off Real Madrid to get him to agree to the current one.

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