For so long, David de Gea seemed to be the only one immune to all that has infected Manchester United in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson age.
Surrounded by mediocrity, he was the club’s sole shimmering beacon. Old Trafford could have crumbled around him and the Spaniard would have remained untouched, still making acrobatic saves and blocking efforts with his feet.
Towards the end of last season though, de Gea’s resistance was seemingly breached. Mistakes started to creep into his game, costing Man Utd dearly in big games against Barcelona, Everton and Manchester City.
There was even talk that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could drop the 28-year-old such were the frequency of his blunders.
Despite this, de Gea is still considered one of the very best goalkeepers in the game right now and the only truly world-class player Man Utd have at this moment in time. Reports that the Spaniard is set to sign a new long term contract worth around £350,000-a-week represent a rare success in what has been a difficult summer for the Old Trafford outfit.
This deal will make de Gea the highest-paid goalkeeper in Europe, once again staving off rumours linking him with a move to Juventus, Paris-Saint-Germain, Real Madrid or whatever elite club is on the lookout for a new goalkeeper at that time.
As one of the best shot-stoppers in United’s history, de Gea has earned his payday.
But from a footballing perspective, what is in this new contract for de Gea? Are Manchester United really providing him with the platform to achieve all that he is capable of? De Gea is, after all, seen by many as one of the game’s best goalkeepers, so what is he doing sticking around at a club that seems to be in a state of perpetual decline?
Perhaps with the exception of Atletico Madrid and Barcelona (who boast, respectively, arguably the two best keepers in the game right now in Jan Oblak and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen), de Gea is good enough to play for any club in Europe. Now should have been the time to agitate for a move with both Juventus and PSG supposedly keen.
Having put up with so much for so long, United fans, in the main, would have forgiven de Gea for seeking pastures new. There would have been no scenes of supporters burning their de Gea shirts, largely because so few actually buy goalkeeper shirts, but also because Man Utd’s support largely recognises that their number one has served his time.
De Gea had the look of a player in need of a new challenge towards the back end of last season.
His blunders made headlines, but his stagnation has been notable for the past couple of years. It was evident at various points over the 2018/19 campaign and especially during the World Cup, when de Gea made a number of errors.
The sharpness seems to have gone from the Spaniard’s mind. Will that return with the signing of a new contract?
De Gea may well be motivated by the thought of restoring Man Utd to their former glory, but with such a prospect still a long way off, it’s difficult to imagine how he will be energised by this in the immediate term.
He is wasting his best years by staying where he is.
United has become de Gea’s comfort zone. The Old Trafford outfit has done a lot for him, taking him in as a scrawny teenager and giving him the environment to grow into one of the best goalkeepers in the world. But is this relationship still mutually beneficial?
United will see de Gea’s new contract, presuming he puts pen to paper, as a major victory. But what is it for de Gea?