It is seems increasingly likely that this summer Manchester United will be faced with the arduous challenge of replacing their Player of the Year and star goalkeeper David De Gea. Although Van Gaal has stated he is becoming more positive with regards to his chances of keeping the Spanish stopper there is no smoke without fire. A move to Madrid this summer appears a formality for David De Gea. A task United would rather be without this summer is trying to replace one of the most talented keepers on the planet, but it is one that will need to be their highest priority.
Manchester United have had a mixed history when appointing a new number 1. One of Sir Alex Ferguson’s biggest flaws for a time was his inability to select a component shot stopper. For every Schmeichel and Van Der Saar there is a Mark Bosnic and Massimo Taibi. Their last two selections have been on the mark though. Van Der Saar was a masterstroke spending his supposed twilight days at Old Trafford, followed by a young Spaniard who has put any reservations about his talent to bed since arriving in Manchester. With a rebuild underway at the Theatre of Dreams the club’s choice of goalkeeper could be paramount to any immediate and future success they hope to achieve. They will not want to get stuck in the flux they did with keepers like they were prior to Van Der Saar.
In Victor Valdes, United currently have a goalkeeper of immense experience from his years with Barcelona but the accepted line is that he will be a capable back-up to a first choice. I have taken the liberty of selecting able replacements for David De Gea as we weigh up who is Manchester United’s best choice to guard their goalposts for next season and the ones which follow.
Honorable mention: Fraser Forster
Fraser Forster has shown his pedigree at Champions League level during his years with Celtic. His debut year with Southampton in the Premier League further enhanced his reputation. He received his England selections for his performances in the Saints’ net and steered them towards the second best defensive record, second only to champions Chelsea in the league and kept 13 clean sheets before suffering a broken knee cap ruling him out for an extended period. His injury means a summer move for Forster would be near impossible even if there was interest since he would struggle to complete a medical.
For the past decade Petr Cech has been one of, if not, the Premier League’s best goalkeeper. Since signing for Chelsea in 2004 the Czech international has amassed a mass of honours. In fact, he has won everything he possibly could have since making the move from Rennes. His 4 Premier League titles are complimented by his 4 FA Cup winners’ medals, which no doubt sit next to his 3 League Cup medals on the shelf above the 2 he got from the Community Shield. Perhaps he even has a separate cabinet for his Champions League winners medal and his Europa League winners medal. That’s a resume that qualifies you for the number one shirt at any team in the land. At 33 years old the signing would mirror the approach taken by United when they opted to sign a 34 year old Edwin Van Der Saar in 2005. You could potentially get a good 7 years out of Cech such is his quality. It would also allow the club to spend some time evaluating some of the premier young keeping talent with a view to a long term replacement. Again similar to the approach with Van Der Saar since it allowed them to establish De Gea as the most promising young keeper when he hung up his gloves. An added incentive with a deal for Cech is that he wouldn’t cost as much to secure as some of the younger keepers they would look to sign. In terms of both experience and cost Petr Cech would arguably serve as the safest option for United in replacing De Gea if they could get Chelsea to deal and beat off the potential competition from Arsenal and PSG.
Tottenham’s French keeper Hugo Lloris screams of a player playing beneath himself. That may seem extremely harsh on Spurs, but Lloris is a caliber of keeper that should be challenging for titles on both a national and continental stage. Rather than accepting a battle to reach top 4 each season he should be between the sticks challenging for Premier League titles and Champions League medals consistently. Lloris has been earmarked as one of the top keepers on the planet from his days at Lyon in his homeland. His time at Spurs has further enhanced his reputation as a keeper of the highest quality. The France number one has proven himself as a world class shot stopper and adapted to Premier League well in his time. That Premier League experience cannot be understated when United are looking for their new first choice. As much as we can talk about the positive aspects of his game, there are negatives that seem to get brushed off by pundits and fans alike. He has made some errors that really clang and are easy to recall. His ability to judge when to come out for the ball has left a lot to be desired. If I could give a comparison they would be akin to Fabian Barthez during his United stint, a supreme keeper on his day but the purveyor of some world class mistakes. However, the negatives are heavily outweighed by the positives in the case for Lloris. What Lloris would command is a large price tag. Spurs are formidably tough negotiators and their financial position dictates they have no reason to sell cheap. So if United wanted to purchase Lloris they would need to be willing to stump up a world class fee for a world class keeper.
An outside but just as reasonable shout is Bayern Leverkusen’s German keeper Bern Leno. Leno has been the first choice at Leverkusen since he signed in 2011 at the tender age of 19. Since then he has established a prominent reputation in Germany among their clutter of top keepers. At 23 years old Leno has a long career ahead of him in goal and if United are looking to make a long term commitment with their next keeper he could have his best years and more with the club. 16 clean sheets in the Bundesliga this year is a better record than any of the other keepers on this list and put him only 4 behind Manuel Neuer. On top of his pedigree in the Bundesliga, Leno has experience in Europe which can be invaluable as United are set to embark on their return to the Champions League next season. 3 clean sheets in Europe’s toughest tournament this season does no harm to the young Germans promising CV. Less established than those mentioned before him Leno would keep more with the approach taken by United when they signed their current Keeper De Gea at a young age. A considerable fee would no doubt be required to tempt Leverkusen into negotiations dependent on Leno’s own interest in a move to the Premier League. His lack of Premier League experience makes him a bit of an unknown quantity to United fans but the Germans have been notorious for producing top class keepers and Leno looks like he is following that model as his stock rises.
Jasper Cillessen has been debuting in goal for Ajax as their number one for the past two Eredivise campaigns. Most importantly he was United boss Louis Van Gaal’s first choice for the Dutch national side at the World Cup in Brazil last summer. It doesn’t hurt your chances of being a potential signing for Manchester United when the manager trusted you as his goalkeeper at a World Cup. At 26 years old there is still a long career ahead of Cillessen. The drawbacks are it is really only in the last two years he has held down the number one jersey for Ajax. His showing at the World Cup gives him a huge upside but he still seems less established than the likes of Leno who is 3 years his junior. Perhaps that comes from the fact he has been playing in the Netherlands which is less established than the Premier League and Bundesliga as one of the top domestic leagues. In his 32 games this season he managed 12 clean sheets and only conceded 26 for the Amsterdam club as they were beaten to Eredivise by rivals PSV Eindhoven. The biggest argument for United moving for Cillessen is he is a known quantity by the man that makes the ultimate decision. He may not be the first choice for fans considering who else may be available. However, when the manager already trusts him to start for the national side it is highly likely he would trust him to start in goals for Manchester United. Furthermore, a move for Cillessen would undoubtedly not command as big a financial investment as the likes of Leno or Lloris.
The Stoke City keeper may seem an outside shout but he has been subject to links with the Premier Leagues top sides for some time. The Bosnian-Herzegovina keeper has reportedly readied himself to pressure his current side to allow him a move to one of the league’s top 6 sides with Liverpool and even Chelsea said to be circling, there is no reason why United shouldn’t be paying attention to developments either. After spending the start of his professionally career on the periphery at Portsmouth, Begovic made the jump up north to Stoke City in 2010. Since then he hasn’t looked back establishing himself as one of the league’s best keepers outside the top sides. There is reason Begovic has been constantly linked to top sides, his ability aside he is Premier League bred and has proven to be steal for Stoke City signing him for 3.5million. With Begovic seeking to engineer a move and since Stoke City have promising young England keeper Jack Butland ready to step into the number one jersey a move this summer seems all but certain. Begovic has a strong command of his area, good shot stopping and efficient distribution that most sides would find valuable. The only thing perhaps holding Begovic back when it comes to consideration from United is perhaps is it doesn’t feel like a high profile enough replacement for one of the game’s best talents. He is established, potentially available and Premier League proven which surely fills a lot of the criteria United will be looking to when selecting their new stopper.
Each of these goalkeepers are proven as capable keepers at the highest levels albeit with differing degrees of experience. Some would prove to be more marquee signings than others, some would be more pragmatic than others and some would seem more long term solutions to others. What cannot be denied is that replacing De Gea will be one of the biggest choices United make this summer and it is one that Van Gaal can’t afford to fumble or rush into. The ideal scenario would be that United convince De Gea to extend his stay at Old Trafford and this will all havebeen much ado about nothing, however that seems wishful thinking for Manchester United fans at this stage. There are top quality replacements around and it will be interesting to see what approach United decide to take this summer.