A five-minute spell of Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur on Friday summed David de Gea up perfectly.
In the 32nd minute of the game, he pulled out a wonderful diving save to deny Son Heung-min – but that came five minutes after he let Steven Bergwijn’s strike burst through his hands and into the back of the net.
At his best, De Gea is up there with the world’s best goalkeepers. However, when not on form, the Spaniard can be somewhat of a liability. Over the last few years, he has fallen into that second category a little too often.
This season, we’ve seen big errors from De Gea against Crystal Palace, Everton and Watford, and there were plenty in the previous campaign. Since the start of last season, no player has made more errors leading to goals than him.
It’s happening far too often for United‘s (and Roy Keane’s) liking, and De Gea can no longer afford to lean on his reputation as an elite shot stopper. Without results, United will soon have a question to answer about his form.
United are no longer good enough to power through to victories without the help of their goalkeeper, and when they’re not getting that help, there are real problems. Against Spurs, United would have won the game if De Gea hadn’t gifted Bergwijn with a goal.
Ever since the start of the 2018/19 season, when this penchant for an error crept into De Gea’s game, fans have been asking how to resolve things. Is he too relaxed after signing his contract? Is it a lack of competition?
Well, if it’s competition that De Gea needs, he might soon get more than he bargained for. Enter Dean Henderson.
When the 23-year-old left Old Trafford on loan last summer, he was an exciting youngster with a lot of potential. When he comes back at the end of the campaign, he will be a Premier League-calibre goalkeeper who is too good to sit on the bench. That’s competition.
Henderson is expected to head out on loan again next season, but if De Gea continues to underwhelm, could we see the Englishman stay and fight for a spot in the first team?
United will give De Gea every chance to get back to his best – he’s paid far too much to be benched so quickly – but they cannot afford to be weak in defence. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men are chasing down Champions League football, having been down in 14th at one point in the season.
While De Gea has been making mistakes, Henderson has been impressing – and United have taken notice. If the Englishman keeps it up, he could be inching ever closer to his first start for the Red Devils.