Man Utd’s De Gea ja vu proves why they must consider signing a replacement this summer

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The Spaniard conceded twice at Wembley as Manchester City won the FA Cup on Saturday

It was the first FA Cup final to kick off at 3pm since 2011. Evidently nobody had informed Manchester United of the rescheduling. On BBC One, where surely the vast majority of the nation were watching - (it’s a bit like that Hank Scorpio gag from The Simpsons; nobody ever says ITV) - the commentators had not even finished their flowery preamble by the time the ball sailed past a motionless David de Gea and into the top corner.

United were not so much caught cold, but rather frozen, by Manchester City’s sudden transfiguration into route one bazooka merchants. It almost felt like a boxer going up a weight class and still punching their opponent’s lights out in the first round. Ilkay Gundogan. Thirteen seconds. 1-0. The portions of beer were flowing.

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Three minutes later, it was nearly two. This time a Rodri header flashed bone-chillingly wide of the upright. De Gea once again reacted as if he was wearing lead-lined diving boots with concrete insoles. You may be sensing a pattern here.

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For a while afterwards, City were absolutely rabid, like a swarm of sky blue termites, gnawing and gnashing at any pretence of a viable resistance with effortless spite. By the time United finally got the fumigation tent erected they were fortunate to just be the one goal behind.

And then, a lifeline. Jack Grealish brushed a cross with the daintiest of fingertip contacts while jumping with his eyes fixed in the opposite direction entirely. On second inspection, the VAR deemed that he had in fact recreated a shot for shot reenactment of the volleyball sequence from Top Gun, and a spot kick was awarded. Bruno Fernandes stepped up, sent ‘We have Ederson at home’ the wrong way and parity was restored.

But look, this all happened on Saturday afternoon. It is now Tuesday morning. You already know how it ended. After the interval United were suckerpunched by a Gundogan volley. Again. There was a distinct sense of de Gea ja vu about the whole thing. This time it was a creeping shinroller from the City captain that caught the Spaniard unawares. Admittedly, it came through a thicket of bodies, but even then there was a suspicion that he could have - maybe should have - got down to his bottom corner marginally quicker. He did not, of course, and United lost.

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Before we go any further, it is perhaps important to clarify that this is not a malicious hit piece on De Gea, nor is it in any way an attempt to apportion blame solely on him and him alone for United’s cup final disappointment. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, from first whistle to last - with the possible exception of a couple of five minute spells here and there - City were the better team. There is also no shame in losing to this Pep Guardiola side; to watch them is to witness the carving of history in real time, the building of a legendary monument from ground zero.

And in fairness to De Gea, he wasn’t the only United player to put in a less than auspicious display. Erik ten Hag might as well have started Fred Dibnah over Fred, for instance, given the leisurely pace at which the Brazilian went steaming around the midfield, occasionally crashing into those around him like a runaway freight wagon. Likewise, the best thing Casemiro did all afternoon was avoid getting sent off, and even then he barely managed that. By contrast, John Stones approached the contest like a Polyfilla freedom fighter, popping up all over the place in his new guerilla hybrid role, filling gaps and smoothing them over with a mastery that could justifiably be exhibited in the Louvre. I sincerely hope you read that in an Erling Haaland voice.

In fact, United hardly carried any kind of meaningful threat until, with their chances slim and their hopes shady, they introduced Marshall Mathers lookalike Alejandro Garnacho around the hour mark. Even then, City never truly looked too pressed or bothered. No wonder the Red Devils’ support, kitted out in crimson bucket hats like a Devo tribute act, got an uncontrollable urge to leave Wembley as soon as humanly possible after the final whistle.

Then there is the nature of De Gea’s performance itself. Unlike his Europa League horror show against Sevilla, this was not a display strewn with howlers or monstrous transgressions, but rather the nagging, lingering suspicion that he could have been just a little bit better a little more often. Perhaps if he hadn’t planted his weight so firmly just as Gundogan unleashed his first, or if he had move his feet just a fraction faster in anticipation for the second, he could have given himself a fighting chance.

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But this is not the first time that we have heard these kind of conversations surrounding De Gea. There’s no doubt that he is capable of the spectacular, the truly magnificent. More and more often, however, that majesty is having to be propped up by a cavalcade of caveats and excuses.

When United fought tooth and nail to keep at Old Trafford him in years gone by, throwing buckets of water over fax machines and the like, it made perfect sense. Now it feels as if they have to put in a similar level of vehemence just to find a reason that justifies why they would want to persist with him at all.

On the whole, De Gea has been a special player for the Red Devils, but increasingly he looks wobbly and feeble. Saturday’s FA Cup final was just the latest in a long line of iffy moments, and the sad truth is that things are only going to get worse from here on out. The descent might not be entirely sudden, but the trajectory is surely set. With that in mind, United need to seriously consider the prospect of a bringing in a summer replacement.

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