Erik ten Hag’s dilemma with David De Gea was summed up in two cup ties in four days last week. The Manchester United goalkeeper contributed more than most to the shock Europa League exit to Sevilla with two calamitous mistakes, but then on Sunday made crucial saves against Brighton & Hove Albion to help earn a place in the FA Cup final against Manchester City (stream live on ESPN+, US only, June 3).

After watching De Gea gift Sevilla two goals in Spain, Ten Hag seemed in no mood to rush to his defence, saying afterwards only that the 32-year-old remains a “very capable goalkeeper.”

He was more talkative at Wembley and while listing the players who had helped win the game, Ten Hag made special mention of the Spaniard.

How Premier League clubs can qualify for Europe

“David played a great game, in and out of possession,” he said. “He made some great saves, he’s done that so often this season, great saves. We have the most clean sheets in the Premier League and today was a clean sheet as well.”

De Gea is a good goalkeeper. You don’t play more than 500 times for a club like United if you’re not, but the question since Ten Hag took charge last summer has been; can he thrive in a system that demands he’s as good with his feet as he is with his hands?

On the evidence of Sevilla, the answer is no. His risky pass into Harry Maguire — who was also at fault — led to Youssef En-Nesyri‘s early goal and then he fluffed his touch from a long clearance which gifted the Moroccan striker the chance to score his second of the night into an empty net.

Ten Hag changed the way United played against Brighton, asking De Gea to kick longer up to Anthony Martial. He looked far more comfortable but it meant Brighton had more possession and more control, although in the end it didn’t matter.

Speaking in Perth during United’s preseason tour in Australia just after Ten Hag’s appointment, De Gea bristled when it was put to him that he might not be the best fit for the new manager.

“I used to play like this in the national team for many years, so I’m comfortable to be honest,” he said. “I think I showed it already. If you watch my games with the national team or when we played with Sir Alex [Ferguson] at the beginning, you could see it, I don’t need to show it to anyone.”

Ten Hag has, usually, avoided talking about that side of De Gea’s game, although following a Europa League tie against Real Betis in March he hinted at his concerns.

“From today, I can’t ignore it, but I think we have seen in many games he did really well,” Ten Hag said when asked about De Gea’s kicking being a weakness.

“I don’t know why, or what the reason today was. There was a lot of wind, it’s a different ball, he probably had some problems with that. I know he can deal with it. We work on that, David is working on that. But I think we have seen, in the season, that he is improving, and he will keep improving, I am sure.”

De Gea, into his 12th year at Old Trafford, will remain Ten Hag’s undisputed No. 1 for the rest of the season but there’s no guarantee that will be the case in August. His contract is up in the summer and United want him to sign an extension on significantly reduced wages but with performance-related bonuses.

If nothing is agreed, the club have until the end of May to trigger an extension which would retain his services until 2024, but would also mean paying him £375,000 a week for another 12 months.

As things stand, United’s four-time player of the year will be a free agent in June. United are looking at other goalkeepers ahead of the transfer window, including Brentford‘s David Raya. The Spain international about to enter the final year of his contract and is the top-ranked goalkeeper in the Premier League for touches and passes this season.

De Gea, meanwhile, is ranked ninth for touches and 10th for completed passes.

Ten Hag was well aware of the issue around De Gea’s kicking before he took the United job but, when he was planning his first wave of recruitment, decided to focus on other areas of the squad. Bringing in another goalkeeper to challenge De Gea is an option again this summer but money is tight — in part because of financial fair play concerns — and United need a top-class striker, which will not be cheap.

Ten Hag’s favourite phrase since arriving at Old Trafford is that, at one of the biggest clubs in the world, “good is not good enough”. De Gea has been great for United and even taking into account the debate around his kicking, he remains a good goalkeeper. The question for Ten Hag is whether that’s enough.

Source link

Will Man United sign a new keeper to replace David De Gea?