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David De Gea: Future of Manchester United goalkeeper reaching its endgame with Erik ten Hag set for new headache

David De Gea's future at Manchester United has been described as "in the balance"; the Spaniard is out of contract and a new deal at Old Trafford is yet to be signed off; Man Utd are expected to hold talks with the goalkeeper after his wedding, which is taking place in Spain this weekend

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David De Gea has previously reiterated how happy he is at Manchester United as talks over a new contract continue

David De Gea's status as Manchester United's first-choice goalkeeper is into extra time.

With lengthy talks having yet to produce a resolution, the Spain international is technically now a free agent after his contract expired on Friday night.

It had been reported De Gea signed a new contract extension, only for the club to withdraw the offer and come back with different terms.

United have been linked with a move for Inter Milan goalkeeper Andre Onana, but confirmed on Friday evening talks with De Gea remained ongoing.

"David de Gea's contract is due to run out but discussions remain open with the long-serving keeper," the club said at the end of an update on loan deals which were set to formally expire.

David De Gea
Image: Discussions remain open between club and player

The player has every right to question how these final months have played out. While he is not at quite the same level as in his pomp, should a player with 545 appearances for Man Utd warrant greater respect?

Those that stand on both sides of the debate may agree the process through which we have arrived at the present day is symptomatic of the club's current malaise.

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Back in February, De Gea made history with his 400th Premier League appearance for United, with no non-British player making more for one club.

But allowing for his contract to run down at 32, viewed still as a good age for a goalkeeper of 45 international caps, smacks of poor planning.

At the very least, United have kicked the can down the road when it has come to addressing the goalkeeper issue, despite other areas still being unresolved.

The De Gea conundrum

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Take a look at the best ever Premier League saves from Manchester United legends Peter Schmeichel and David De Gea after the Spaniard broke the Manchester United clean sheet record

De Gea has made 17 errors leading to goals in the Premier League - the most by any Spanish goalkeeper in the competition's history. But given the sheer volume of games, is that a particularly high number?

If this is to prove his final week in English football, his 12-year stay at Old Trafford will be rather hard to define. Last season brought the Golden Glove as well as breaking Peter Schmeichel's clean-sheet record.

De Gea's future at Man Utd is uncertain

When De Gea received the award, Roy Keane - at the forefront of his detractors - told Sky Sports: "United had to improve from last year, they were so bad defensively.

"They're all patting him on the back. I'd move him on quickly, De Gea. He's not going to get United back lifting trophies, absolutely not. United were bound to improve from last year so everyone patting him on the head is ridiculous. It's his job."

That much is true, but it is not as if those in front of him have exactly excelled on a consistent basis during a decade-long search for another Premier League title.

Why keeping faith in De Gea could be rewarded

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We look back at some of David de Gea's best saves in the Premier League for Manchester United.

De Gea will reflect on a job well done after registering more shut-outs than his peers for the second time. His 16 clean sheets during the course of last season not quite eclipsing the 18 he managed during the 2017/18 campaign.

Defining his impact, and the widely held belief that Erik ten Hag has a vision for United that has a different profile guarding his goal, is not easy to pinpoint. It is a verifiable conundrum.

There is the added tax of being the goalkeeper for one of the biggest club's in the world - as the highest-paid 'keeper in the world in addition to being the highest-paid Spanish footballer.

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Manchester United goalkeeping scout Tony Coton says that we all need to 'watch this space' regarding David De Gea's future at the club

This doesn't always equate to success, in the same way that his proud clean sheet record doesn't tell the full story. His supporters will, however, point to 12 years of service during a tumultuous period in United's history.

From 2011 up to the present day, he has been the one constant; deemed good enough to arrive as Edwin van der Sar's successor under Sir Alex Ferguson as a skinny 20-year-old.

Signed for a British record fee for a goalkeeper of approximately £18.9m, De Gea had excelled at Atletico Madrid, where his goalkeeping coach Diego Diaz said in 2010: "Even though he's still growing physically and mentally, he's already on the road to becoming one of the best 'keepers around. Any other outcome would be a disappointment."

Growing into the role with that ringing endorsement, he has remained United's No 1 under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ralf Rangnick and - until now - Ten Hag.


His potential departure is also laced in confusion. It was assumed there would come a point where his future would be clarified.

It has emerged United want to keep him, but on considerably reduced terms. On Tuesday, United supporters blocked the entrance to the club's Megastore to protest against the Glazer family amid the ongoing ownership saga.

To add to the chaos, it emerged via The Athletic that the club reneged on an agreed proposal to extend De Gea's contract.

It was reported that the player agreed to a drastic reduction on his £375,000 per week wages - but the club left the paperwork unsigned. The subsequent offer on the table of an even lower salary now tests his resolve.

Why Ten Hag would want a change at No 1

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Playing out from the back is becoming more and more popular in the Premier League - but it doesn't always go to plan. Here are some of the best examples from this season of when teams paid the price

Ten Hag immediately identified - based on his preferred style of play at Ajax - that De Gea's face wouldn't fit. His profile didn't meet the criteria based on his new manager's possession-based approach.

There were immediate teething issues, as witnessed in the 4-0 humbling at Brentford - a 'disaster class' for De Gea, but the result of not playing to the strengths of those at Ten Hag's disposal.

Blame could be apportioned on both sides, and the United boss has acknowledged there will be pain along the way as he seeks to mould United into his image. Lessons were learned as the goalkeeper was instructed to kick long against high-pressing teams.

United are looking at other options including Diogo Costa
Image: United are looking at other options including Diogo Costa

United have made contact with Inter Milan over Andre Onana, and have looked at Brentford's David Raya and Porto's Diogo Costa. Ten Hag publicly backed De Gea, but the Dutchman never guaranteed he would be No 1 next season even if he had stayed.

Dean Henderson is back at the club after his loan spell at Nottingham Forest ended, so United could opt to promote from within.

For De Gea, every stellar performance has been decontextualized by lapses in concentration. Ten Hag retains a desire to build a side comfortable throughout in build-up play, with a goalkeeper that does not hesitate coming off his line.

We remember how Said Benrahma's shot was allowed to go through him in defeat at West Ham, how he was culpable to some degree on all three of Sevilla's second-leg goals to knock United out of the Europa League.

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Terry Gibson describes the moment Sevilla scored their third following a costly mistake from David De Gea

There was then criticism of how Ilkay Gundogan's second in United's FA Cup final loss against Manchester City was allowed to travel so far without De Gea readjusting his feet.

In the crucial moments, in the key games, how often has he been the man for the big occasion?

Quite fittingly, in what could prove his final appearance at Old Trafford, there was a reminder of De Gea at his best when very little was on the line.

Fulham were leading when De Gea saved Aleksandar Mitrovic's penalty. It is a mere sidenote in a draining season, but United would go on to win the game.

David de Gea looks forlorn after conceding Liverpool's third goal
Image: Erik ten Hag has publicly backed De Gea on a number of occasions

Ten Hag said afterwards: "I think it shows even at that age, you can progress. It was a great save.

"A real step up in his performance and that it's similar for our team during the season, good is not good enough and you have to do better.

"It was a great save in the right moment in the game because, 2-0 down, then it's going to be difficult to win the game."

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David De Gea had a moment to forget as the Manchester United goalkeeper appeared to lose his footing and gift West Ham's Said Benrahma the winning goal in their 1-0 loss

De Gea's desire is to remain playing at the highest level. Taking another lucrative payday in Saudi Arabia would be an acceptance that those days are behind him.

But in allowing his contract to expire, perhaps only then will the player be fully appreciated in less hostile surroundings, emerging as one of the world's best as his goalkeeping coach Diaz once foretold.

United had other fires to fight this summer. Beyond the protracted takeover, there was the drawn-out talks with Chelsea over Mason Mount.

Andre Onana shows good footwork for Inter Milan
Image: Andre Onana shows good footwork for Inter Milan

There is a desire to recruit at least one new striker, with interest remaining in Atalanta's Rasmus Hojlund.

There is the hope that the transfer budget can be increased by player sales, in conjunction with the futures of captain Maguire, Fred, Scott McTominay and Anthony Martial.

But all that would be pushed lower down the pecking order if the endgame to the De Gea conundrum leaves a vacancy at No 1.

United finished eight points above fifth-placed Liverpool in securing Champions League football last season. Taking into consideration City's superior goal difference, they were also effectively 15 points off the Premier League summit.

Manchester United's Casemiro and David de Gea pose with the trophy after the Carabao Cup final
Image: De Gea poses with the Carabao Cup trophy

Was De Gea the difference in adding a top-four berth to Carabao Cup success, or would the gap to City have been closer with a different goalkeeper?

Having played every minute, he certainly played his part - but the extent to which his presence defined United's fate still lingers.

For all of United's myriad issues to be resolved, the absence of a first-choice stopper would emerge as Ten Hag's top priority and only concern.

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