David de Gea has comfortably been Manchester United’s best player for the better part of five years now. At 28, particularly as a goalkeeper, he should only be at the beginning of his prime years. What a curious sight it was then, to see the acclaimed best in the world drop one clanger after another this year, particularly in the dire closing stretch of the season. At one point in time, Big Dave had made errors that had lead to goals in 4 of 5 straight games, costing United precious Premier League points.
There is no doubt that De Gea has been below his usual standards of excellence this season. But even some of the criticism of his annus horribilis has a tinge of recency bias. He may have been somewhat shakier than expected all year, but earlier in the campaign, he was still regularly bailing the team out with his displays of supreme athleticism. In Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s most impressive domestic victory (remember that time when United was really good?), De Gea had perhaps the individual performance of the season away at Spurs. It was the Spaniard’s outstanding display that United rode to a 1-0 win.
Because of the incompetence of the decision makers at United, De Gea has only one year left on his contract. Did the uncertainty over his future become a distraction? Was he just sad because all his best mates at the club (the bulk of the Spanish-speaking contingent: Anger Herrera, Juan Mata, Antonio Valencia, Marcos Rojo, and Eric Bailly) could all be gone this summer? Did the weight of playing behind a backline of useless has-beens and never-wases finally break the poor man’s spirit?
Whatever the cause of his malaise, no player has earned more patience. Edwin van der Sar and Peter Schmeichel had their wobbles as well, and great legacies tend to airbrush the odd stretch of bad form. De Gea is worth whatever salary he’s asking for, despite his down year, and the club should make sure he gets it this summer. BM
This has been a season to forget for everyone, and that includes Manchester United’s best overall player, David De Gea. The Spanish no. 1 had plenty of fumbled shots and turnovers from his own poor distribution, particularly down the stretch with top 4 hopes on the line. United conceded 54 goals in the league this season, their worst defensive record since 1979, and went 13 games without a clean sheet at one point. Paired with his 2018 World Cup performance, it’s been quite the downturn for a goalkeeper who seemed to have finally earned universal support for his claim on best goalkeeper in the world.
However, one thing De Gea does have in his defense, apart from very poor actual defenders, is lots of “Buts.” He was poor, but so was his back 4 almost every week. He was low on confidence, but he had to rely on Nemanja Matić as defensive cover. De Gea had a whole lotta mess in front of him this season. Back line chaos was the story for much of José Mourinho’s time in charge this season, and again down the final stretch under Solskjaer, but there was a time when Victor Lindelöf and co. held it down enough for De Gea to get back in his groove. United finally built a positive goal difference (in January), and De Gea put in another classic performance to beat Spurs.
It’s not been a good season for anyone, but if we’re making a list of players that should survive the rebuild, De Gea’s name should still be first on that list. The quality is not gone, just the confidence. He put his trust in this club through Louis Van Gaal and José Mourinho. It would be stupid for the club to let him go now. Pay the man already. CD