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Pre Season: Is De Gea The Right Goalkeeper For Manchester United?

Yusuf Haq

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Pre Season: Is De Gea The Right Goalkeeper For Manchester United?

Whilst Manchester United look for a new beginning under Erik ten Hag, David de Gea reverted to old ways against Aston Villa.

With United 2-1 up in the final minute, David de Gea came off his line for a Villa corner that was headed for his six yard box. Yet bizarrely, rather than go up and deal with the cross he ducked, and it was 2-2.

His actions cost Manchester United both a win and a perfect record out in the far East, with his weakness being a cause of great frustration for United for a while now. To see it again was not a positive.

The Spaniard has just come off one of the best shot stopping seasons of his career, but with new boss Erik ten Hag’s style requiring a specific role from his goalkeeper, now more than ever he has to adapt.

David de Gea is one of the best shot stoppers around, there is no doubting that. But his overall game as a goalkeeper is lacking in key areas.

David de Gea against Aston Villa in pre-season. (Man Utd)
David de Gea against Aston Villa in pre-season. (Man Utd)

De Gea’s general attempts to command his box are extremely weak. Whilst you may feel secure when facing shots with him in goal, when trying to prevent the shots he does not give you much confidence.

This is partly why he is no longer picked for Spain, with boss Luis Enrique emphasising the need for a goalkeeper that breeds confidence in his backline.

“I need a goalkeeper that transmits peace and calmness to me - and that doesn’t mean they won’t make mistakes, errors are part of football. But what they generate I like a lot,” were his comments. 

His unwillingness to challenge crosses led to a goal today, and has led to many more over the last few seasons especially. 

The Spaniard often faces far more shots than most other Premier League keepers. Last season, just two goalkeepers made more saves in the Premier League

His weakness defending crosses influences this. De Gea stops just 3.2% of crosses, lying in the third percentile when compared to goalkeepers from Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues and European competitions as per FBRef.

For some comparison, Dean Henderson’s 2020/21 season had him in the 67th percentile for this metric. Henderson was loaned to Nottingham Forest, leaving frustrated that United wouldn’t give him minutes.

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Champions League winner and Man of the Match in the final, Thibaut Courtois, lands in the 70th percentile for this metric. Liverpool and Brazil goalkeeper Alisson remarkably falls in the 88th percentile.

In possession, United’s number one has struggled in recent years. Throughout pre-season, he does however look to be a beneficiary of Erik ten Hag’s possession structure.

He did claim that he hasn’t got anything to prove with regards to his ball playing, and many would beg to differ.

On his abilities with his feet, De Gea stated: “If you watch my games with the national team or when we played with Sir Alex at the beginning, you could see it - I don’t need to show to anyone."

Part of United’s struggles when trying to sustain pressure on teams in recent years has come from his poor passing ability, as well as his reluctance to sweep.

David de Gea
David de Gea

But so far under Ten Hag, it genuinely looks improved and he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Today it wasn’t fantastic, but given pitch conditions it would be unfair to judge him on it.

De Gea has so far made strides under Ten Hag, but today he reverted to type in a crucial moment. He cannot continue with this if he wants to remain Manchester United’s number one.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Manchester United, David De Gea, Erik Ten Hag, Football

Yusuf Haq
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