Amidst the joy and celebrations over the England National Team ‘banishing the hoodoo’ by not just reaching the last eight of a World Cup, but also doing it via a penalty shootout, one of the country’s biggest football clubs in Manchester United, announced its third new signing of the Summer.
England’s patience and perseverance over the 90 minutes in the stoppage time that was forced by a late equalizer from Colombia – despite doing little with the ball – finally boiled down to spot-kicks and acrobatic saves and this time – unlike the usual – it was England that came out on top, thanks to the heroic effort from their goalkeeper Jordan Pickford who has risen to the occasion in the world stage as his talent merited.
The result followed what has been the defining theme in this tournament. One that has been littered with events that have by and large, deviated from the status quo of football and in some cases – life, in general. Favourites fading away quickly, the surprisingly positive success of VAR when it was destined to fail, reasonably friendly and even pleasant experience for the majority of fans in Russia – and the list is endless. Even keeping this trend in mind, the lack of confidence and the laser-sharp focus in Manchester United’s first choice goalkeeper David De Gea – widely regarded as one of the top two shot-stoppers in the planet – at this World Cup so much so that the Spaniard would feature (statistically) in a list of worst performers in the tournament, was frankly astounding to watch.
David De Gea conceded 6 goals from 7 shots on target while it took him two full games before he saved one. It goes on to show that even he is not as infallible at all times and under all circumstances.
If there is any position where Man United were adequately covered – then it was at the ‘goalkeeping’ position. Looking past David De Gea, there’s Sergio Romero – Argentina’s first choice goalkeeper who is nursing an injury that forced him to sit out of the showpiece event in Russia and a promising young upstart from Portugal, who has been described as ‘one of the best in his age group in Europe’ in Joel Pereira. But that was until May.
With Pereira set to go out on loan for more first-team opportunities to accelerate his growth, Romero being injury prone and David De Gea, possibly needing some time to recover from his exertions – both physically and particularly mentally after a fairly jarring experience with his country. The Spaniard is still the undisputed choice to guard the net, but it is imperative that he gets his time out and when he is back – he is well and truly back to be able to reproduce his own jaw-dropping standards every week for Manchester United.
All of this collective uncertainty at a position where Manchester United are used to being most certain about, makes the signing of Lee Grant – a completely reasonable and dare I say – timely move. It not only allows Joel Pereira to go out and get more playing time and Romero to recover without pressure – it also allows David De Gea time to reflect on the Summer that he has had – which was completely in contrast to the high standards that he had set for himself at Manchester United.
Lee Grant has gained considerable experience in the Premier League and can perfectly fill in for a game or two at Old Trafford, in the cup games, should such a need arise. In fact, his entry into the Premier League at Stoke came at the expense of Jack Butland who was then recovering from a long-term injury.
He then went on to impress the manager and the supporters alike in a string of impressive performances including a man-of-the-match display against his new club Manchester United in the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford two years ago. On signing for the club, the 35-year old said:
“Moving to Manchester United has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. This was an opportunity that I couldn’t let pass and I’m thrilled to become a part of such a historic club.
I’ve enjoyed every moment of my career so far and I’m now ready to continue learning and improving alongside some of the best players in the game. But at the same time, I intend to use my experience to help the team whenever possible.”
In an odd and unpredictable Summer, it is rather fittingly strange that there is still plenty of sense in Manchester United signing a 35-year old between the sticks from a relegated Stoke City to fill the role of a third choice goalkeeper.