Teniola
5 min readJun 30, 2023

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David De Gea, Manchester United & Grace.

Almost 13 years ago, when David De Gea finalised a move from Atletico Madrid to Manchester United the fanbase was curious and excited about the prospect of the early beginnings of a new dynasty being built by Sir Alex, there was the accustomed belief that this was an acquisition that would usher in a new cycle of success and new faces to take over from the ageing squad the legendary manager was guiding to serial success. Then again, the experienced ones in the fanbase were aware enough to be cautious, after all, there had been quite a few failed rebuilding phases (Djemba Djemba & David Bellion come to mind).

De Gea (for EPL promotional content)

David De Gea was seen at the time as one of the most promising goalkeepers on the European continent. His age further enhanced his reputation considering he had been to one European club final and a youth final, emerging victorious on both occasions. De Gea was making an assured move to establish himself under a true winner, at a club fabled for winning against all odds. There was a lot of upside for all parties involved, at least that was what it all looked like. Unfortunately, De Gea encountered early struggles on and off the pitch, but not so much as to thoroughly consider him not good enough. His early struggles with his positioning during set pieces raised concerns in the press but it soon proved something that could be remedied with proper coaching. United Goalkeeper coach Eric Steele is largely credited for making De Gea the keeper he is today.

About 3 years after De Gea joined the club Sir Alex called time on a career at Manchester United that had spanned more than 3 decades, had brought in dozens of trophies and overseen the establishment of United as a truly iconic institution both continentally and globally. That new dynasty earlier imagined would have to wait. As United went through a decade of hardly any success and multiple managers De Gea himself made out time to create his own lore. There was a clear flirtation with Real Madrid for two seasons which culminated in a now infamous faulty Fax Machine, a transfer situation which in hindsight United were barely prepared for, seeing as hardly any competent replacement had been acquired by the club in view of his pending exit at the time. The only stand-in goalkeeper United could boast about was a sometimes serviceable Sergio Romero.

De Gea managed to earn several personal accolades at United while the team largely underperformed. A team staffed with high-earning underachievers with 3 trophies amassed between 2013 and 2022 was quite damning considering the club’s record in the preceding decade, and De Gea was somewhat deservedly the highest earner throughout half that period. In my opinion, De Gea became complacent and comfortable following his last contract extension. He had established himself as the club’s number 1 goalie while hardly ever being challenged for the position. This being a situation that was allowed to happen over a long period of time suited De Gea more than it suited United. As football continued to evolve with the introduction of ball-playing goalkeepers and playing out of the back, United found itself behind the times.

Dave does save.

The rest of Europe eagerly embraced this new approach to build up play quickly but a well-paid David De Gea at United was far too set in his ways to adapt and United’s early season performances under new manager Erik Ten Haag exposed this deeply lacking feature in our much-loved goalkeeper. The fact that De Gea still experiences periodic lapses in concentration as well as poor decision-making didn’t help his case considering he was beginning to look like more of an expensive option as opposed to a mainstay in future United sides, something needed to change.

In the past few days, the contract situation with De Gea has played out in the press and his contract with United is in its last hours. David De Gea will no longer be under contract at midnight tonight. Some have derided the club officials for letting things get to this point but I am of the opinion that things are not as bad as they seem on the inside. The club and De Gea’s representatives are clearly in dialogue, one which should have been long concluded but apparently changing circumstances have reportedly forced the club to review the earlier contract proposal they offered just before the end of the season.

A part of me wonders why things changed abruptly, but a part of me feels this is an opportunity to push United closer to their rivals tactically. Ten Haag is a manager who desires a ball-playing goalkeeper, and De Gea has not been able to perform that role competently. Yes, the primary role of a goalkeeper is to prevent the team from concerning goals and going by the fact that De Gea managed the most clean sheets in the league this past season he did his job pretty well, but elite football has become much more than having a goalkeeper who is a competent shot-stopper. An elite goalkeeper is also a sweeper, an added member of the outfield defensive line, and sometimes a playmaker. Added to his already listed deficiencies, I imagine it is increasingly difficult to make an argument for keeping De Gea as the number 1 goalie in the squad.

The team joining De Gea for a photo-op to celebrate his golden glove win

At this point, the possibility of De Gea staying on at United is just as much as the likelihood of him leaving, the great Spaniard might have played his last game for the club he joined as a teenager more than a decade ago, and I understand that to some that outcome, considering the series of events that have led up to now will be in bad taste, so I earnestly hope both parties find a way to resolve this issue with grace so that another club legend doesn’t have to leave under relatively unpleasant circumstances. We’ve had one too many of those already.

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Teniola

Entrepreneur, Humanist, dreamer & thought provocateur INDIE GRIFFIN