David De Gea is the first Manchester United to win the prestigious Player of the Year award for three consecutive seasons. Such an achievement for a goalkeeper probably won’t be repeated at the club for quite some time. If metaphorically Manchester United are clinging on to the cliff edge of Premier League elite status, it is fitting that De Gea symbolises the fingertips that have kept us from falling so far.
Unfortunately with every good performance United fans become increasingly anxious, as what was once the elephant in the room is now the spectre of the summer transfer window. Real Madrid have rarely been known to relinquish interest in a player they have courted. However if De Gea stays, could he go on to become the greatest United signing ever?
IF HE GOES
Much like Ronaldo in his last few years at the club De Gea’s position in the squad is arguably the most important. In a year or two we would be bringing Anthony Martial into the equation but at this point I would say De Gea is the MVP. There are parallels in their situations although Sir Alex convinced Ronaldo at the time when he asked for a show of faith in return for his dream move and a world record fee. With De Gea it was a faulty fax machine and a shady two months of negotiating from Real Madrid. Even Ronaldo never matched the same passion in his celebrations when his team mates scored, De Gea celebrated with extreme passion when Anthony Martial scored against Everton recently.
When De Gea started out in the Premier League he admittedly took some time to find his feet and about 18 months of patience was awarded with arguably the best goalkeeper in the premier league.
If he had left last year fans possibly could still have felt a little upset given the time afforded to him at the beginning. What people fail to realise is the defence has been the weak link for United in the post Ferguson era, up until the start of this season. In that period having been peppered with attempts unlike anything he has had to deal with before, De Gea has shone like a world class goalkeeper in a team lacking in any concrete resilience. Having stayed this season, if he leaves in the summer no fan can complain that he hasn’t returned the favour a few times over. He will leave a legend. Much like Ronaldo some years ago. Hopefully he is given the respect of a world record fee for his position. Unfortunately Real Madrid probably aren’t capable of this level of romanticism.
IF HE STAYS
SAF may have (in a moment of elevated joy when winning league vs Villa) in Phil Jones chosen the wrong player to champion as potentially the greatest player of all time to pull on the United jersey. During his time at United Sir Alex only missed a staggeringly minuscule 3 matches – and one of these was to scout a young David De Gea at Atletico Madrid. Considering actions are stronger than words I feel Sir Alex’s actions here suggested he was about to scout one of his most important ever signings.
What makes De Gea potentially the greatest ever?
Maybe only a goalkeeper can become the beacon of world class performance in an underperforming football team historically renowned for their brand of cavalier attacking football. However, the level of performances seen from De Gea in the years since Ferguson retired has undoubtedly kept United in the borders of Elite football in the premier league. Without him United surely couldn’t have made the top 4 last year and wouldn’t have have even the remotest chance of stealing 4th spot this term.
If Louis van Gaal indeed bumbles this team into the top 4 at the close season, the arrival of Jose Mourinho will most likely result in a title challenge next season. Otherwise maybe an exodus can be expected and a fall into regular top 8 year on year beckons.
If De Gea chooses to stay and United climb back in to the reckoning for top 2 table finishes, after more years at the club with this level of performance he may well stake a strong claim for the greatest ever.
Will he go?
No one can dismiss the allure of playing in one of world football’s most famous cities for possibly the most famous club football team in history. David de Gea has been so professional this season after his dream move fell through that if it does go to completion this year, most fans would not begrudge him either. However Real Madrid’s pursuit of him was shocking. This may well have left a bitter taste and I do hope he sees this when making a decision. His celebrations for Anthony Martial’s decisive late goal against Everton in the FA Cup shows clearly how much the club means to him. I hope to see that celebration at Old Trafford next season.