It seems bizarre to question David De Gea’s ability in any way considering how consistently brilliant he’s been for so many years, but a very poor end to last season has planted a seed of doubt in many people’s minds.
De Gea signed a massive new contract at Manchester United almost exactly a month ago, and it cemented the idea that he might be sticking around. There is of course the possibility that United are protecting his value, knowing full well he may be off to Real Madrid or PSG come the summer. Losing De Gea for free or even in a cut price deal would be a huge blow.
The new contract reportedly puts the Spaniard on £375,000 a week, which is an astronomical amount of money. In the modern game its often going to take that sort of money to get one of your best players to stick around, but has it made De Gea complacent?
There’s no denying that he is a wonderful shot-stopper, but surely he can see that his distribution needs serious work. Liverpool and Manchester City can spring counter-attacks so quickly because Alisson and Ederson will immediately see a pass and complete it accurately. De Gea often takes his time, and then rolls the ball to a full back for another laborious ‘attack’ or boots the ball out of play. There’s no reason to think that those high-profile errors we saw last year are going to come back, but the art of goalkeeping may well be developing whilst De Gea contents himself with being a brilliant shotstopper.
You can argue that De Gea has earned that new contract simply for sticking at a club that has consistently underachieved for six years, played to an extremely high standard and never kicked up a fuss. There’s no denying that he’s extremely professional and loyal, but it almost looks now as if the ambition to improve has gone.
He doesn’t exude that commanding prowess you often see from great goalkeepers, which may have been a small part of United’s defensive frailties in recent years. This is hopefully where Harry Maguire comes in. He’s a born leader, but he’ll still need clear direction from the man behind him.
De Gea returned from injury much quicker than expected against Liverpool, and surprisingly was relatively under-worked. While he didn’t spark any attacks with his distribution, he didn’t lump any goal kicks out of play either.