De Gea joined Manchester United on the 29th of June 2011 for a then British record fee for a goalkeeper of £18.9 million from Spanish side Atletico Madrid.
His start at United was up and down to say the least, with some impressive performances showcasing his shot stopping ability against Arsenal and Chelsea coupled with being blamed for goals against West Brom, Manchester City and Blackburn rovers.
In particular it appeared as if De Gea was struggling to adapt to the physicality of the Premier League and soon it was obvious that the opposition had begun to target this apparent aerial weakness from corners and wide plays.
Sir Alex made the decision to bring in backup goalkeeper Anders Lindergaard to take De Gea out of the firing line but after an injury to Lindergaard, De Gea returned between the posts in a 3-3 draw with Chelsea and has been quoted as saying that his last minute save against then opponent Juan Mata was the turning point in his United career as he went on to play the clubs last 19 matches and kept 8 clean sheets.
Fast forward to today and De Gea has been the United number 1 for almost 12 years, with a highlight reel to rival any goalkeeper around the world.
Along the way there have been some dodgy fax machines, goalkeeping errors and debates about his ability to adapt to the style of a modern goalkeeper playing out from the back but as a pure shot stopper, you’d struggle to find better.
As well as cementing his place as the United number 1, he was rewarded in 2019 with a hefty 4 year contract earning him £375,000 per week. Making him the top earner both at United and in the Premier League at the time.Embed from Getty Images
Which brings us to today, 31st of March 2023 and just 3 months left on De Gea’s Manchester United contract, although United do have the option of a 1-year extension that they can turn to should they need to ‘break glass in emergency’.
United manager Erik ten Hag still very much wants De Gea to remain as his number 1, but both he and the club are keen to bring wages back under control at Old Trafford which means they are expecting De Gea to take a significant reduction in his bumper salary if he wants to remain at the club.
An offer has been tabled by the Club but reports are that De Gea has rejected it and whilst prepared to take a pay cut, isn’t happy with the figure offered.
The most likely outcome is that De Gea and United find a figure that works for both and De Gea remains at the club long term, but if they can’t where will Ten Hag and united turn?
The easiest answer is surely to turn to Dean Henderson, the United goalkeeper who is currently on loan at Nottingham Forest has been begging for his opportunity to replace the Spaniard and has made it quite clear he isn’t prepared to sit on the bench at Old Trafford.Embed from Getty Images
There are question marks over whether United genuinely believe Henderson is a long term successor to De Gea, but they have had opportunities to let him go in the last coupe of transfer windows and instead chose to loan him out, so they must believe he has potential to make the number 1 shirt his at some point or else it’s time to let him build his career away from the Theatre of Dreams.
As with any big club, there are always rumours about incoming players and United are no different, one of these is that United are keeping their eyes on Brentford and Spain goalkeeper David Raya who has seen his value jump dramatically since moving from Blackburn to Brentford in 2019.Embed from Getty Images
Having previously played futsal as an outfielder he would fit Ten Hag’s style of play perfectly and is gaining experience of playing at the top level in both the Premier League and for Spain where he has dislodged De Gea from the national team.
Whatever happens, United know the importance of the number 1 shirt at Old Trafford and know the challenges they had replacing greats such as Schmeichel and Van De Sar and will want to make sure they get it right this time.