Forget Pogba, United’s biggest problem at the moment is David de Gea

The one thing United don't need now is their goalkeeper suffering a crisis of confidence. The stats show what a disaster de Gea's slump could be...

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There’s an oil-tanker full of steaming slurry hitting an industrial-sized fan at Old Trafford at the moment with the manager, players, execs and agents seemingly at war with each other and the rest of the footballing world lapping it up.

Ex-Old Trafford ace Paul Ince called the club a “laughing stock” due to the predicament they’ve found themeselves in, and while there’s plenty of drama off the pitch, on the pitch, their most reliable performer has seen a dip in form that could torpedo any hope of them making the top four – forget about winning the league!

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David de Gea has won the United player of the season award with a perturbing frequency in recent seasons.

For a club whose self-defined image is built around “attacking play” and wingers bombing forward, that their goalkeeper has become by far their most important player is troubling.

And now he’s hit a bad stretch.

We all saw his muck-up against Portugal in the opening game of Spain’s Russian implosion, a competition where he allowed six goals from their opponents’ first seven shots in the tournament.

And his poor run has continued in the opening games of his club campaign, with six shots on target yielding four goals for Leicester and Brighton.

That’s just four saves from the last 14 shots he’s had to deal with.

De Gea’s blip wouldn’t be such a big deal if United were either defending better or scoring more, but there’s been no up-tick there either, meaning the impact of this sudden downturn in his play will be amplified if it continues as he’s saved them so many points in the past.

In previous seasons the worry for Red Devils supporters was that de Gea may want to return to Madrid – Real came within a functioning fax-machine of signing the keeper in 2015 if we believe what we read – and the notion they might return for him again has loomed over subsequent transfer windows.

Soccer Football – Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois Presentation – Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain – August 9, 2018 Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois poses on the pitch during the presentation REUTERS/Sergio Perez

It’s tempting to wonder how Thibaut Courtois’ move to the Spanish giants has affected the 27-year-old’s mindset – has he missed his chance to return to a city where he made his name as a teenage sensation between the sticks for Atletico?

The Belgian, only 26, could be Los Blancos’ last line of defence for years to come.

The catastrophe that a de Gea departure would’ve been becomes clear when you look at a statistical analysis of last season.

Consider the simple stat, courtesy of twitter numbers guru @cricketingview at the end of last season, that de Gea made a full two saves more per-goal-conceded than the average Premier League goalie in 2017/18.

Putting it even more plainly, Manchester’s reds would’ve conceded twice as many goals as they did with an average keeper last year.

And now it looks like they may have one, albeit temporarily – they hope.

It gets even more concerning when you look at how those goals could’ve affected their league position:

Of course, there is scope for United to improve on their attacking play last season, and the concession of more goals could make them more likely to score more goals too because they attack more, but the numbers should be a huge concern for any Old Trafford watcher as they suggest the team with de Gea struggling for confidence, could be more likely to slip from the Champions League places than it is to challenge for the title.

While all the Pogba palaver and Raiola wrangling might grab attention, it’s in goal that Man U may find their biggest problem this season if David de Gea cannot recapture the form that has saved Mourinho’s men on so many occasions and put him among the best goalkeepers in the world.

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