The Fall of De Gea: is it Time for Henderson?

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The Fall of a Premier League great

Prior to the 2018 World Cup, David de Gea was one of the world's best goalkeepers in world football, if not, the best.

De Gea signed for Manchester United from Atletico Madrid in 2011 as a replacement for the retiring Edwin van der Sar, but back in 2015, he was on the verge of moving back to the city of Madrid but this time to Real Madrid.

However, the move, which would have seen Keylor Navas (now at Paris Saint-Germain) go to Old Trafford, was brought to a bizarre halt, as it was later revealed a broken fax machine prevented the paperwork going through. De Gea was forced to ride out at least half a season more at United but he remained at Old Trafford and continued with his heroics between the sticks. At the time, he was still at a young age for a goalkeeper and so perhaps thought that big move would eventually come in a year or two.

Unfortunately for him, 2018 was the year that started a dramatic sprial in this famous career at Old Trafford. Before the World Cup in Russia, he made the PFA Team of the Year for four consecutive years, was voted United's Player of the Year four times, nominated for the Ballon d'Or and he had just won the Golden Glove in England. At the very least, he was constantly nominated for awards and regarded as the best shot-stopper in the game that truly saved United from embarrassment many seasons in a row.

The 2018 summer was also the season when Madrid went back in search of a new first-team goalkeeper and De Gea was once again highly sought after by Los Blancos. Three years following on from the famous fax machine incident and he had the chance of making that lucrative move to Madrid. Instead, the Spanish giants decided to buy Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois. Had it not been for the broken fax machine, he could have had a La Liga title and no less than three Champions League titles to his name and Courtois could still well be at Stamford Bridge.

Since then, in the past two seasons, mistakes have been continued to mount and these are exactly the sort of errors no one could expect from a supposed Premier League quality goalkeeper, let alone one the world's best.

Mistakes like the ones against Arsenal in March 2019 where he prematurely began to practice social distancing, this time from Granit Xhaka's long range hit out of hope that should have been an easy save. Shortly afterwards, he made another costly mistake against Manchester City the following month, flat-footed and beaten at his near post by Bernardo Silva.

The mistakes do not end there. Just four days after that Manchester derby, he spilt a tame Antonio Rudiger shot against Chelsea, presenting Marcos Alonso with the chance to bag a point for the Londoners. And, back in September, he flapped at a simple Shkodran Mustafi header into the net.

Moving on, against Watford at Vicarage Road this season, a simple uncontested gathering of a slow-paced ball slipped through his fingers. Earlier this calendar year, against Everton, he managed to somehow concede following a moment of indecisiveness with the ball at his feet, where he blasted it at Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Then, on the restart week, Steven Bergwijn thrashed in a shot against De Gea, but it looked as if it should have been an easy routine save.

Finally, the devastating error again Mason Mount within minutes of the second half against Chelsea all but handed the Blues free passage into the FA Cup final. This, as a lot of United fans seem to agree upon, was the final straw in a catastrophic downfall for the Spaniard.

It is not a booklet but a catalogue of huge goalkeeping mistakes from the past two years that has arguably not just thrust him away from the greatest in the world claim, but perhaps as not even the best on United's books anymore. This could well be the version of David De Gea everyone will continue to see if something is not done about - just look at what happened with Joe Hart.

The 29-year-old's latest contract extension came back in September last year but, despite this, Solskjaer may seriously consider cashing in on De Gea in the summer. Now, with three years left on his current deal and at just 29, there is still money in the four-time United Player of the Year winner.

Simply put, this income can be used to strengthen the squad elsewhere on the pitch and simply allow Dean Henderson to finally claim United's number one spot. The current Sheffield United keeper has been dreaming of stepping out onto Old Trafford as the club's main keeper and after another fabulous season, it would be devastating for him to be sent out on loan again.

Of course, there is a big difference between what is expected and what is needed in front of the Stretford End, compared to that at Bramhall Lane. However, at 23 and perhaps with a permanent spot as England's number one waiting, it all seems to be aligning perfectly for him and United to meet and start a sparkling career together.

Only time will tell, but De Gea, seemingly, is on borrowed time, no matter how good he's been. Henderson will surely be ready to go and come to next season, we may see a change between the sticks and it will be incredibly well justified.

By Rob Spereall

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