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Can David De Gea put the past year behind him after earning a new contract?

Dave has his new contract, but can he find his old form?

Manchester United v Crystal Palace - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

David De Gea has signed a new contract.

Collective Sigh of Relief

There is no question that extending De Gea’s contract was the right thing to do for Manchester United. He’s one of the best goalkeepers in the world, whose heroics have helped keep the club afloat at times.

There’s also the matter of trying to find a better option that is not only affordable but also willing to sign for United without the promise of Champions League football or title contention. It’s safe to say there isn’t much confidence in Ed Woodward and the Glazers to pull that off.

However, it’s also fair to say that big, brave, Spanish Dave hasn’t exactly been in the best run of form since the end of the 2017/18 season.

The 2018/19 campaign got off to a dreadful start. Defensive errors, manager-player feuds, World Cup hangover, and even more defensive errors led to arguably the worst season in United’s recent history. It wasn’t really De Gea’s fault in the beginning, but as United’s goals conceded stacked up it was impossible for him to avoid blame. He had really poor giveaways, mis-timing problems, and shot stopping problems.

The 2018/19 campaign was preceded by a bad World Cup performance in Russia, which saw Spain concede 6 goals in their 4 matches and exit early in a penalty shootout loss to the hosts in the round of 16. De Gea’s performance against Portugal in the opening match was particularly infamous as Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick that included a weak effort going right through De Gea’s grasp.

A little under a year later, just as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s caretaker record had earned him the permanent appointment to manager, De Gea went through another series of costly errors and blunders. Arsenal, Wolves, and Chelsea were each aided in the Premier League on goals by De Gea’s poor save attempts, and FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi ended United’s Champions League campaign with a brace at the Nou Camp. The Argentine’s first goal was a masterful capitalization on an Ashley Young giveaway, but the second was another effort that went right through De Gea’s grasp.

De Gea has since lost his grip on the starting role in the Spanish national team, and failed to save another shot through his hands on the decisive goal in United’s third game of the new season, a 2-1 loss at home to Crystal Palace. Now, with his new contract signed, and fresh off a clean sheet, everyone is hoping De Gea can put the poor performances behind him and regain his focus.

Did last season hurt De Gea’s confidence, or is he really on the decline? Will the 54 goals conceded in 2018/19 have a lasting effect? It’s impossible to know now exactly what is going on with Spanish Dave, but it’s worrying to say the least that United’s most reliable player over the past 6 seasons could be losing his edge. United are in an awkward position of both wanting to, and having to trust him to rediscover his show-stopping form that earned him universal praise as one of the best goalkeepers in the world. However, there are no guarantees in football.

Goalkeeping is one of the hardest positions in the sport, especially when you’ve earned the high expectations that De Gea has. Other all-time greats Peter Schmeichel and Edwin Van Der Sar each had their own poor seasons at Old Trafford, but they also had the benefit of some stellar teams out in front of them. Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelöf look the part as a centre back pairing, Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been exceptional since his arrival, and Luke Shaw has finally turned into a decent left-back (albeit when fit). Solskjaer is building a back four that can provide the cover De Gea needs, it’s just up to him to meet them the rest of the way. It won’t be an easy rebuild, but he’s only 28 years old. If he can maintain his focus and fitness, it’s not unreasonable for him to keep up a high level of goalkeeping well into his 30s.