Why David de Gea is holding Manchester United back

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When David de Gea arrived at Manchester United in 2011, he had his critics. The young Spaniard's shot stopping technique, which often saw him make saves with his legs, rather than his hands, looked awkward, and drew derision from many. Over time, however, De Gea settled into life in the north west, and for a period of time he was heralded by many as one of the best goalkeepers in the game. His ability to keep the ball out of the back of the net was otherworldly at times, with the Spaniard regularly pulling off incredible saves. Then goalkeeping changed.

The modern sweeper 'keeper had already been popularised by Manuel Neuer, who spent much of the 2010s standing on the halfway line when his team was attacking. Ederson arrived in the Premier League in 2017, and fit perfectly into Pep Guardiola's Manchester City side. He passed like a midfielder, and showed the value of having a goalkeeper who could bisect an opposing team with one pass. Alisson swapped Rome for Merseyside the following season, as he joined Liverpool.

Betdaq bet exchange punters will know, both goalkeepers massively impacted their teams. Like his compatriot at City, Alisson was comfortable with the ball at his feet, right from day one. The duo showed the importance of having a goalkeeper who, beyond saving shots, can contribute in possession and come off their line, either to claim a cross, or to sweep up behind their defence, which Alisson in particular has drawn acclaim for.

In contrast, David de Gea has failed to develop in line with the evolution of goalkeeping. The Spaniard rarely looks comfortable when asked to venture even a short distance from his goal line, and his ability on the ball is better described as comedic, rather than creative. At numerous points last season, clips would be shared on social media of De Gea spending a long time measuring up a simple pass to a defender, before clearing the ball into touch following the slightest bit of pressure.

De Gea's is last year's model of goalkeeper, and it shows. The United defence, already exposed by a terrible midfield setup, is regularly put under pressure by a goalkeeper who they know they can't rely on. De Gea's profile of goalkeeper, a strong shot stopper with little else to his game, is better suited to a relegation candidate than a big side, who need a proactive presence backing up the defence and giving the team a platform to build on with the ball.

It did seem like a natural suitor came to the fore, as Dean Henderson impressed during two seasons on loan at Sheffield United. His performances drew speculation that he would be the main man for United in the future, which Ole Gunnar Solskjaer agreed with. After returning from his time on loan in 2020, Henderson was rewarded with a new contract, tying him down to 2025.

However, the English custodian hasn't found a way past de Gea, and has been linked with a move away from the club. While he's not the prototypical modern goalkeeper that Alisson is, Henderson does not come with the pronounced flaws that De Gea does, and having a goalkeeper who is comfortable leaving his goalline, and carrying some responsibility when the team are in possession, will make Manchester United a much better unit.

As such, United have a decision to make. The move away from David de Gea will not be an easy one. He's on very high wages, and any attempt to move him on would likely see the club needing to settle for a low transfer fee, and contributing to his salary after he leaves. However, the longer the club puts off De Gea's departure, the longer they will struggle.

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