Erik ten Hag has earned a reputation for making difficult decisions Manchester United Managers this season how the sanctioning of departure Cristiano Ronaldo in November and drop-of-form captain Harry Maguire. But his continued faith in the goalkeeper David deGaa could cost the club a place in next season’s Champions League.
United have other concerns, such as just three goals in their last six games. But by failing to ditch De Gea, Ten Hag risks the club falling back into the rut of rewarding mediocrity rather than displaying the ruthless streak that forms the backbone of every successful team.
Error on Sunday by De Gea during United lost 1-0 at West Ham Unitedwhen he was hit by a weak one said Benrahma Shot from 20 yards was the last costly mistake he’s made in recent weeks. What was once a rarity is becoming normal for the 32-year-old. However, despite his declining form, sources have told ESPN United remain committed to extending De Gea’s stay at Old Trafford into a 13th season — if not necessarily as number 1 of the club.
Just two goalies — Gavin Bazunu And Alex McCarthywho both play for the bottom of the table southampton — have a worse memory percentage in the First League this season as De Geas 68%. And yet the United No. 1 also entered the race for the Golden Glove Award for most clean sheets with 15 shutouts – two more than Alison, Nick Pope And Aaron Ramsdale. Nothing sums up De Gea’s mystery quite like these two starkly contrasting stats.
On the one hand, he has become a liability in Ten Hag’s United team. West Ham’s mistake came less than a month after their Europa League exit Seville when three De Gea errors resulted in a 3-0 quarter-final defeat in the second leg. But de Gea can also produce moments of incredible agility and reflexes, making match-winning saves to support those who believe he’s still one of the best goalkeepers in the world. But De Gea’s inconsistency is now the only consistent element of his game and United’s outfield players perform without the confidence that a goalkeeper brings at the top of his game.
There’s no escaping the reality that De Gea’s poor distribution with the ball at his feet is a recurring problem for United. This was noted by former manager Louis van Gaal back in 2015 when Sergio Romero was signed to rival De Gea who almost completed a move real Madrid during the summer transfer window. That’s also the reason why De Gea didn’t play for Spain since October 2020, with former coach Luis Enrique not even taking him to Qatar as part of his 2022 year World Championship Squad due to reservations about his footwork and reliability.
At United, De Gea’s poor communication skills have caused misunderstandings with his defenders, while opponents now regularly target him at corners, edging him out and showing his reluctance to assert himself when the ball is in the air. It’s a throwback to how he struggled when he arrived Atlético Madrid in 2011 before toughening himself up against the physical demands of a goalkeeper in the Premier League.
Ten Hag said that De Gea “has my full belief, no qualms”. following the West Ham defeat, but statistical evidence is mounting to suggest the United manager is either in denial or publicly protective of his goalkeeper while harboring concerns about his reliability. In the last three Premier League seasons, 27 goalkeepers have played 30 games or more and De Gea’s numbers within that group place him at the wrong end of most key categories.
He ranks 13th in terms of goals prevented while only five goalkeepers have conceded more goals than De Gea since the start of the 2020-21 season. He’s seventh when it comes to expected goals conceded, and only LeedsUnited‘S Illan Meslier has a worse memory rate (65.5%) than De Gea (68%) over the last three seasons.
A positive for De Gea in this period is that at 32 – Manchester City‘S Ederson is at the top at 49. He also broke Peter Schmeichel’s club record of 180 clean sheets in February, despite having played 137 more games than the Treble goalkeeper at the time.
With De Gea’s contract due to expire at the end of this season, the club have been exploring alternative options; Switzerland No. 1 Jan summer was checked in January before leaving Borussia Monchengladbach for Bayern Munich the following Manuel NeuerLeg injury at the end of the season.
A source close to De Gea told ESPN after last month’s defeat by Sevilla that he is keen to return to Spain this summer after 12 years at United. However, he accepted that he didn’t have a realistic option due to Real, Atletico and co Barcelona All hired goalkeepers and no other club league be able to come close to matching his weekly salary of £375,000.
De Gea also accepts he will have to take a significant pay cut to stay at Old Trafford, but sources say an agreement between the player and club is nearing completion. However, it is not the most positive situation that a contract is signed because the player has no alternative options and the club realizes that it would be cheaper to keep him on a reduced salary – even if no guarantees were given to him that he will be next season be the first choice. — than to sign a new, more reliable goalkeeper.
Ten Hag’s squad is burdened with a number of players who have signed new contracts despite being unable to justify their performances. It seems like history is repeating itself with De Gea. Unless, of course, Ten Hag shows the ruthless streak that was responsible for Ronaldo and Maguire by drawing a line under the De Gea era.
Information from ESPN’s Stats & Information Group was used in this report