It is common knowledge that at top clubs where the pressure is at a level higher than the rest – the number of options in the transfer market to strengthen the starting eleven is unsurprisingly lower. Manchester United, among the other big and ambitious sides in the Premier League operate with a narrow base of targets which gets further trimmed down often owing to special circumstances and competition from rivals for the signature.
Given that is the case, it is important for any side – let alone one with aspirations to win domestic and European honours every year to keep hold of their best player(s) particularly when replacing that member is virtually impossible – not because such a move could be out of reach in monetary terms but sometimes such a replacement could not possibly exist. Manchester United face a similar sticky and peculiar situation with their superhuman goalkeeper David De Gea.
Now, De Gea has been United’s most consistent performer for the last five years – part of a team that has won the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and the Europa League in the same period. Not only impressive is the fact that De Gea has been able to achieve this in the club’s most turbulent period in the last 30 years, but for him – a goalkeeper to shine so brightly in a side that has collectively under-performed for a bulk of that period despite his own uncertainties deserves recognition.
And recognition, the Spaniard received in the form of Player of the Year awards multiple times – the in-house Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award which De Gea has now won three times on the bounce in his six-and-a-half years at the club. The only other player to achieve the same feat at United is Cristiano Ronaldo who was sold to Real Madrid in 2009 for a then world-record fee.
If anything, that shows the calibre of player we are talking about – at Manchester United’s disposal, the asset – both on and off the pitch that United could leverage to their advantage.
Despite spending over £300-million since his arrival, Mourinho has rebuilt the spine consisting of Eric Bailly at the back, Pogba in the middle and Lukaku spearheading right through the middle but the structure is anchored by one David De Gea between the sticks – whose reputation as Manchester United’s best player has remained intact, heightened even, in the last two years of relative success.
In the big games, when the stakes cannot be higher, David De Gea has shown once again this season why he deserves the contract that he desires at a football club whose financial clout dwarfs the rest even in the league where the 20th placed team could financially compete with a mid-table side from other European leagues.
Against Liverpool at Anfield, Jose Mourinho’s plan to wear Liverpool down in a low block could have crumbled had it not for De Gea’s outstretched unorthodox save off Joel Matip from point-blank range. The Spaniard’s supreme concentration and application at the Emirates was key to keep Arsenal at bay despite their 33 attempts on goal.
The 27-year old was the saviour in Seville when he denied Luis Muriel from five yards in one of the saves of the season. The Spaniard has been so good this season that Manchester United – despite conceding a higher volume of clear-cut chances than the likes of Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea, United have conceded fewer goals.
According to the ‘Expected Goals Against (xGA)‘ metric, United have the second largest variance (largest in the Premier League) between the amount of goals they should normally concede (this often relies on the strength of the model) and the amount of goals they actually conceded. If there is a way to quantify something as intangible as a goalkeeper’s contribution to the overall defensive standard of the team, then it is this.
All of this makes the news that De Gea is waiting on Manchester United to formally offer a contract extension, a bit laughable. Since Cristiano Ronaldo, United genuinely possess a player who would strengthen every single football team in the continent. They stumbled but did not fall as they picked up their 19th and 20th League Titles in the next four years. Now – five years without a Premier League win, Manchester United simply cannot afford to let that happen which is why extending his contract should be once again a priority in the Summer.