Has David De Gea’s decline been exaggerated or should Man United cash in this summer?

first_imgDavid De Gea won United’s Sir Matt Busby award for the fourth time at the end of last season (Getty Images)The consistency and quality of De Gea’s performances in recent years has seen him become largely immune to criticism compared to the majority of his teammates, yet uncharacteristic blunders are starting to filter into his game more frequently.De Gea’s form has been brought under the microscope due to a series of errors committed during what has been a dismal few weeks for United. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have been beaten in six of their previous eight matches and De Gea has been partly at fault for goals in four of those games.In defeats against Arsenal, Wolves, Barcelona and Everton during that run, De Gea has been at least, partially to blame for goals conceded, if not fully. By far the worst error occurred against Barcelona when a lethal combination of poor technique and a lack of concentration on his part culminated in Lionel Messi sneaking a weak shot underneath him.During United’s next game against Everton, meanwhile, De Gea’s positioning and sluggishness to get across his goal-line were pinpointed as key reasons behind Gylfi Sigurdsson beating him with an effort fully 30-yards from goal.That strike was followed shortly after by Lucas Digne’s sweet volley which meant that De Gea conceded his seventh and eighth goals from outside the penalty area during the Premier League season – the second-highest total of his United career behind the nine he conceded in the doomed David Moyes campaign back in 2013-14. Has David De Gea’s decline been exaggerated or should Man United cash in this summer? Manchester United’s xGa is inferior to four of the other five top clubs (Credit: Understat )While talk of De Gea’s decline is a relatively recent phenomenon, his critics will state that he has been on the wane since last summer after he endured a disastrous World Cup with Spain. De Gea conceded ten of 11 shots faced, including all four of Russia’s penalties in the last-16 defeat.He has also committed two errors leading to goals in the Premier League this season, a total that only six players in the division can top.Conversely, while he hasn’t been at his absolute best this season, De Gea has still come up with inspired displays for his side, none more so than during United’s 1-0 win over Spurs in January when he made 11 saves. No goalkeeper in the Premier League has made more in a single game this season.AdvertisementThat match-winning performance came only three months ago and yet De Gea looks a shadow of that version of himself at the moment. To some observers, his deteriorating performances are more connected to off the pitch matters, rather than a sharp decline to his abilities on it.Speculation continues to rumble on over his long-term future with his contract set to expire in June 2020. According to reports, United are yet to match De Gea’s wage demands of £350,000 per week or his agent Jorge Mendes’ fee, while a failure to qualify for next season’s Champions League is likely to make him consider his future. Advertisement Advertisement Gylfi Sigurdsson caught De Gea out with a low strike from distance (Getty Images)Sunday’s loss also took United to 48 goals conceded in the Premier League this term which is not only their worst defensive record in the history of the competition, but also the highest number they have conceded in a league campaign for 40 years.Having started and completed all 34 of United’s Premier League matches this season, De Gea has conceded all 48 of them. Clearly, he cannot take sole responsibility for the alarming number of goals United have let in. Indeed, only three goalkeepers – Lukasz Fabianski (West Ham), Neil Etheridge (Cardiff City) and Ben Foster (Watford) have made more saves than he has.AdvertisementAdvertisementHowever, United’s xGa (expected goals against) makes for interesting reading when compared to the totals of their top six rivals. According to the xGa model, United have slightly underperformed, letting in 48 goals to an expected 47.69 (-0.31). Chelsea are the only other top-six club to have conceded more goals than their xGa.Furthermore, the comparison between United’s xGa rate this season compared to last is remarkable. In 2017-18, United had by far the best rate in the division, conceding only 28 goals against an xGa of 43.54. Essentially, they conceded 15 fewer goals fewer than they would have been expected to.It is too simplistic to pin those vastly different results squarely on De Gea, however, an integral part of the xGa model comes down goalkeepers saving shots that they have no right to. Over the course of this season, the instances of De Gea saving his side with miraculous stops has decreased. David De Gea has endured a difficult few weeks for Manchester United (Getty Images)David De Gea hasn’t had to do much apologising during his eight-year spell with Manchester United but after captaining the side during their 4-0 thrashing by Everton on Sunday, he felt compelled to say something.‘As captain I want to say that the performance of the team today, on top of the result, was not up to the standard expected when you pull on this shirt,’ he tweeted a couple of hours after United’s humiliating defeat at Goodison Park.In the turbulent six years that have followed Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, De Gea has been United’s one, often literally, saving grace: the one world class player within their ranks performing to a consistently high standard expected of those who represent the club.AdvertisementAdvertisementDe Gea has won more Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year awards (four) than any other Manchester United player since its inaugural year in 1988 while he has also appeared in the PFA Team of the Year more times (five) than any other goalkeeper during the Premier League era.During their recent drift away from the upper echelons of the Premier League and Champions League, United have been genuinely fortunate to call upon one of the very best goalkeepers in the world and it was only thanks to a faulty fax machine in Madrid that they kept him out of Real’s clutches in 2015. Oliver Young-MylesWednesday 24 Apr 2019 7:01 amShare this article via facebookShare this article via twitterShare this article via messengerShare this with Share this article via emailShare this article via flipboardCopy link331Shares Ed Woodward has a job on his hands re-moulding United’s squad this summer (Getty Images)United should also be acutely aware of the dangers in rewarding players past their sell-by-date huge new contracts following the disastrous decision to hand Wayne Rooney a five-and-a-half-year contract worth £300,000 per week in February 2014, a matter of months after Ferguson had decided to sell him.Stating that this is the beginning of De Gea’s decline rather than little more than a few substandard performances seems premature, though, given he is still young in goalkeeper terms at 28-years-old and has been playing behind a questionable defensive unit all season.A summer rebuild at United is certainly required yet there are far more pressing areas of the squad that need strengthening than in goal. A world-class central defender or two, a right-back, holding midfielder and consistent wide forward, should all be much higher on the club’s wishlist than a De Gea replacement.De Gea might have allowed his focus to wander and his standards to slip but he remains one of United’s most important players and someone the club should look to be building around rather than casting aside.More: Manchester United FCRio Ferdinand urges Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to drop Manchester United starNew Manchester United signing Facundo Pellistri responds to Edinson Cavani praiseEx-Man Utd coach blasts Ed Woodward for two key transfer errors Comment De Gea has been tipped to replace Gianluigi Buffon at PSG (Getty Images)Long-term suitors Real Madrid are said to be out of the running for now, although that could well change if he were to become available, with PSG emerging as his most likely destination given they are looking to replace the 41-year-old Gianluigi Buffon.Perhaps those external factors have negatively affected De Gea’s focus in recent weeks. That certainly seems to be the opinion of Gary Neville who claimed after the Everton game that De Gea looked ‘distracted’ and that he didn’t know where his mistake against Barcelona had come from.Whether De Gea has become unsettled at Old Trafford or is just going through a rare poor spell between the sticks is difficult to interpret from the outside but regardless his future will be sorted out either way by the end of the season.Unless both parties can come to an arrangement, this summer will represent United’s final opportunity to sell De Gea for a fee reflective of his market value as failing to do so would allow him the chance to leave the club for free next summer.AdvertisementLosing De Gea would have been unthinkable at any point over the past six seasons, yet this has arguably been his weakest season in England since his very first campaign when many questioned whether he had what it takes to succeed in England.last_img