David de Gea among goalkeeping options Man Utd can pursue as Andre Onana AFCON exit looms
The Cameroonian is expected to miss a series of games in the new year as he participates in international duty
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Those of a cynical persuasion might be tempted to call it a blessing in disguise. Certainly, there have been times during the early stages of the season when Manchester United fans must have wished that they had somebody - anybody - else in goal instead of the calamitous Andre Onana.
When the 27-year-old signed for the Red Devils over the summer, it was meant to signify the beginning of a new era at Old Trafford - one of dependability and meticulous, incisive attack-building from back to front. Instead, Onana has, on occasion, shown himself to have the shot-stopping capabilities of the Venus de Milo and the nuanced distribution talents of a disgruntled postman. Erik ten Hag wanted a goalkeeper who could slot a pass through a letterbox, and he’s ended up with one who quite often shoves them into hedgerows.
Even now, as Onana looks to be turning something of a corner for United, there comes a customary sting in the tail. According to reports, the Cameroonian has told his home country that he will be available for selection at next year’s African Cup of Nations, meaning that he could miss as many as seven domestic games for United between January and February. And that leaves Ten Hag and his side with a dilemma. Who do they turn to between the sticks? Do they grit their teeth and trust in the players they already have, or do they use the winter window to reinforce? We’ve taken a closer look at three potential options below...
The first, and the least controversial, avenue open to United. Bayindir is already at the club having signed from Fenerbahce on Deadline Day, but is still yet to play any senior minutes for the Red Devils. The Turk was very much recruited as an understudy, but by no means is he a slouch. A 25-year-old, six-cap senior international, he does boast both pedigree and experience, and will surely have been waiting eagerly to prove himself as Onana’s reputation has crumbled around him.
Whether Ten Hag is of the opinion that Bayindir can be trusted for an extended run in the side remains to be seen, but if United are seeking an economical, short-term solution to their goalkeeping woes, it is hardly rocket science to suggest that this is the way they should go.
At other end of that particular spectrum lies Diogo Costa, FC Porto’s number one who continues to garner admiring glances from several of the biggest clubs in Europe. According to a report from Portuguese outlet A Bola, United had scouts in attendance to watch the 24-year-old last weekend, and could be weighing up the possibility of a swoop for his services.
In many respects, this is the nuclear option. Signing Costa would be a frank admission that faith in Onana has waned beyond a point of viability, but given that the Portugal international could cost as much as £65 million, it feels improbable that the Red Devils, if they do decide to firm up their interest in him, will do so in January. To parachute in a player of his ilk while Onana is away would be the goalkeeping equivalent of changing the locks while your spouse is visiting family as a means of letting them know the marriage is over. Things have been rocky in recent weeks, but the prospect of a messy divorce feels unlikely just yet.
David de Gea
Here we go, folks - the wild card. Get ready for a serious dose of de Gea ja vu. When the Spaniard left Old Trafford over the summer, there was a broad consensus that it was the right time for both player and club to say their respective farewells. What nobody could have foreseen, however, is that De Gea - still only 32 - would be a free agent well after the new campaign had commenced.
Now, without a club and without many prospective suitors, there are whispers that a shock return to Old Trafford could be on the cards. And once you get past the initial absurdity of it, you begin to realise that it might not actually be the worst idea in the world - especially when considering cover during the month of AFCON. De Gea knows the club better than anybody, wouldn’t cost the earth, and could presumably be placated with a short term contract that would still allow Onana to come back as the Red Devils’ de facto first choice in February. It may sound like madness, but stranger things have happened.