He came into the Premier League by diving meekly over a shot against West Bromwich Albion, and he might well be leaving it having managed, somehow, to injure a buttock. If he hadn't spent the years in between times becoming one of the best goalkeepers in the world, David De Gea's Premier League Adventure would have made for an excellent farce.
First, and working on the assumption that if you're reading this then you're a Manchester United fan, you need to have made your peace with his possible departure. Indeed, you need to have done so quite some time ago. They say pessimists are never disappointed, and they're right: if you don't live every second of your entire life in the certain knowledge that everybody you have ever loved will either leave you, leave Manchester United, or leave that TV show that's really popular right now and you really like, then you're a sucker and a rube and you deserve everything you get. A happier life and better psychological health, you say? Whatever.
Second, even if the departure of De Gea does provoke sadness, it certainly should not provoke panic. If the requirement for a replacement is to be as good as the Spaniard might become, then United are in trouble, because there aren't many of those knocking around. But if the requirement is to be good enough to win the league — which is really should be — then that's less concerning. After all, Joe Hart's won two of the last three, and though he's certainly capable moments of extreme excellence, he's not making anybody's Best In The World arguments. Nor's Simon Mignolet, who was only denied a winner's medal last year by his captain's poor footwork.
The mooted replacements for De Gea vary widely in style, from the hyperactive twitchiness of Hugo Lloris through the Van Gaal-crafted sweeper-keeping of Victor Valdes, and on to the old-school massive-bastard-in-nets stylings of Petr Cech and Samir Handanovic. All, though, are in that happy bracket between 'very good' and 'properly great', and that means they're certainly good enough.
All come with their own risks, of course: Lloris may spend most of his time looking like Good Barthez, but every now and then he looks like the other version. Cech is ageing and has basically missed a season, while Valdes has been out for a year and a half and has played twenty minutes of Premier League football. Which is twenty minutes more than Handanovic. And it's not impossible that United could attempt a repeat of their De Gea trick and pluck a prospect from somewhere around Europe: Jasper Cillessen from Ajax, perhaps, or Bernd Leno from Bayer Leverkusen. If that happens, then all bets are off.
But if there's to be slight drop in standards in goal, then everything points towards there being a massive improvement in front. United's intention to buy a first-choice, top-class, defence-leading centreback has been grist to the rumour mill for a year or more, and a new rightback likewise. Assuming those purchases work out even to a moderate degree — and while all transfers come with inherent risks and none are guaranteed, we're talking about improving on Tony Valencia and Phil Jones here — then De Gea's brilliance will be partially or even completely offset. And if United can manage to start scoring a few more as well ...
If you put a gun to (this particular aspect of) tBB's head and asked us to predict what will happen in United's goal next year, we'd guess that Valdes will be given a shot at the No.1 job with somebody else coming in as backup. Asmir Begovic, maybe. Hopefully not Tim Krul: this season's Newcastle adventure will, we suspect, have caused permanent psychological scarring.
But even if that's wrong, our guess is that next season won't live or die on this particular decision: there are options at a variety of prices, and most of the options can reasonably be expected to be good enough. United need to defend with a bit more intelligence and and attack with a lot more wit; that, not the identity of their custodian, will make or break next season's title bid. The only danger is if somebody in United's hierarchy completely loses the run of themselves, and United end up with another Mark Bosnich. Not even the most pessimistic fan in the world could enjoy that.