Man Utd’s David de Gea is increasingly difficult to defend as blunders continue
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On a Sunday during which Mark Owen rocked up at the King’s Coronation concert looking and sounding like Gail Platt (wrong Corrie, pal), David de Gea still somehow managed to put in the most frustratingly underwhelming Manc-related performance of the evening. United fans might never forget what the Spaniard has done for them over the years, but patience is beginning to wear very, very thin at Old Trafford, and he has certainly lost a certain shine in recent times. Take That jokes, etc etc.
Against West Ham, De Gea made the kind of supple-wristed faux pas that he is becoming alarmingly renowned for. Said Benrahma sidled onto the ball in an entirely inauspicious position just inside Manchester United’s half, carried it a little way forward while Victor Lindelof backed off him like a teller being held at gunpoint during a bank heist, and then hit an unexpected pot shot from distance. De Gea got down early enough, seemed to have the relatively timid effort within easy grasp, and then proceeded to let it squirm through him and into the bottom corner. United would go on to lose 1-0.
The mechanics of the howler are one thing, although in many ways that thing is immaterial. It’s factually accurate to point out that De Gea was unprepared for the shot, that his body weight was still moving backwards as Benrahma struck the ball, and that as a consequence, he slipped in his effort to push off his standing foot towards the incoming effort, resulting in a less robust attempt at the block when it did eventually reach him. But really, none of that matters too much to the average supporter.
Instead, what does matter is trust, and as things are, De Gea is burning through the faith of United fans like an arsonist in a paper shop. The problem is that where the 32-year-old is concerned, the peaks may be dizzyingly high, but the troughs are sickeningly low. It is both oxymoronic and plain moronic that De Gea is facing both calls for his head and the prospect of a Golden Glove win this season. Nobody in the Premier League has kept as many clean sheets as Dave, and yet few goalkeepers continue to be quite as divisive.
When he is good, he is superb. Even now, there are moments where his shot-stopping is simply jaw-dropping. That signature style of slightly goofy mesmerism, somewhere between a circus trapezist and a Who from Whoville, still allows him to soar and claw at extremities of his net that are traditionally supposed to remain off-limits to those at the behest of gravity. To put it another way, he has his moments.
But then again, he has his moments. Sunday’s botch against West Ham was a prime example. Not too long ago, there was the veritable disasterclass in Seville. There have been many, many, many others besides. Factor in the obvious impediments to his passing game - and how integral that is to the tactical approach that Erik ten Hag is trying to cultivate at Old Trafford - and suddenly you have a big, big problem. At the end of the day, De Gea can win you a game of football, but he can just as readily lose it for you too.
And for a team like United, with all of their ambition and the persistent weight of expectation, that’s just not good enough. De Gea is a goalkeeper capable of absolute sublimity, but it is also becoming increasingly hard to defend him from the criticisms of the baying mob.