David de Gea has cost Man Utd and the club must move on

David de Gea - David de Gea has cost Man Utd and the club must move on - Getty Images/Clive Rose
David de Gea - David de Gea has cost Man Utd and the club must move on - Getty Images/Clive Rose

In less than four weeks’ time David de Gea’s contract runs out at Manchester United. There is a new deal on the table, and he wants to stay, but United should be signing a new first-choice goalkeeper.

Unfortunately for De Gea it is about diminishing returns. Even if he signs he will no longer be United’s highest-paid player although quite how he secured that status in the first place is an indictment of the club.

Dave Saves? Well, the brutal truth is that is happening less and less and he was at fault for the goal that Ilkay Gundogan bounced past him to secure the FA Cup and the second leg of Manchester City matching United’s Treble.

The argument in De Gea’s favour is that he was relatively unsighted as the volley came through a thicket of players but top-class goalkeepers make that save.

Instead De Gea was not set – a common criticism of him –  when the corner was flighted out to the City captain on the edge of the penalty area, even though he had time to anticipate the shot that was inevitably coming from Gundogan’s weaker foot. De Gea was then slow to react as the ball bounced not just once but twice.

Little wonder that Erik ten Hag took a long hard look at the monitor in his technical area at how the goal was scored. He will not have liked what he saw and it should have made his mind up. If it was not already. His face said it all.

De Gea got a glove to the ball but it was not enough and it capped a campaign in which United’s perceived strongest link, not so long ago, has become a serious weakness in the chain. The 32-year-old’s greatest attribute, the one that was said to over-ride his lack of ability with the ball at his feet – such a pre-requisite in the modern-game – was that he was a ‘good shot-stopper’.

In fact for the past three seasons he has dipped under a save percentage of 70 per cent in the Premier League – 69.93 this campaign, 68.85 in the previous one and 65.22 before that. In seven of the nine seasons before that it was above the mark. The trajectory is emphatically in the wrong direction.

De Gea still won the Golden Glove for the most clean sheets – 17, two ahead of Liverpool’s Alisson – but that is an anomaly. United conceded 43 times in the league – 10 more than City or Newcastle United.

So there needs to be a ruthlessness at United. Ten Hag has already said that he cannot guarantee De Gea the number one spot and having made that statement it is not a leap to suggest that it is time to cut the ties or sign a better first-choice. De Gea’s country, Spain, have long moved on from him. So should his club.

United are in the market for a goalkeeper who is more comfortable in building possession and is more reliable. But it is not a priority. It has to be.

Undeniably De Gea has cost United. He was badly at fault in their chaotic exit from the Europa League, as they folded in the second leg of their quarter-final away to Sevilla with an unwise pass to put Harry Maguire under pressure that led to the first goal and a rash intervention for the third.

De Gea was hugely responsible for Manchester United's exit from the Europa League in April - Getty Images/Ash Donelon
De Gea was hugely responsible for Manchester United's exit from the Europa League in April - Getty Images/Ash Donelon

Even in making his 540th appearance in goal for United, overtaking Alex Stepney’s record, De Gea blundered in defeat against West Ham United while spooling back to that horrific 4-0 loss to Brentford also highlighted his culpability.

With Phil Jones having been released De Gea is now the only player at United who knows what it is like to win the Premier League, after signing in 2011. But that is not a good enough reason to keep him.

If United are to compete they need to make far more wholesale changes than are being planned. The priority is a striker and an ‘number eight’ midfielder, with Chelsea’s Mason Mount set to fulfil that role. Marcus Rashford needs support while this FA Cup exposed United’s lack of dynamism in midfield with Christian Eriksen looking like his race is run.

But United desperately need a goalkeeper. By contrast Pep Guardiola was decisive when he arrived at City, deciding that Joe Hart had no future despite his status and longevity. It did not work out for Claudio Bravo but Guardiola quickly remedied that by signing Ederson.

Ten Hag needs to act in the same way. He has Dean Henderson returning from his loan at Nottingham Forest but is he good enough to be United’s No 1? It does not seem so, while Jack Butland’s loan from Crystal Palace is expiring.

Pre-match and the talk had been of Guardiola taking a risk by rewarding Stefan Ortega with a starting place rather than going for Ederson. But it shows how far ahead City are that the discussion afterwards was not of Ortega but De Gea. United need to fix it.

He saved well from Kevin De Bruyne and did even better to deny Erling Haaland but the damage was already done and that is without mentioning whether De Gea should have reacted to prevent Gundogan’s first goal. It may appear harsh but De Gea was hardly on his toes in anticipation of the volley as it flew past him in the opening few seconds. A better goalkeeper does better and United need a better goalkeeper.