There's no denying just what a brilliant keeper David de Gea has been for Manchester United, at times winning games almost on his own with his gravity-defying agility. He has already left a mark on our club that needs no embellishment. Shot stopper supreme, last line of defence extraordinaire, a master of his trade and the one player at the club to be regarded as a genuine world class talent.
United's Player of the Season for four out of the last five years, including the first man to ever win the award three times in a row, De Gea has thrown down the goalkeeping gauntlet and underlined his status as the best in the business.
This season, though, it has become increasingly apparent that, at 28, De Gea's prime years are well behind him. This may prove controversial, but I believe De Gea is finished at the top level. How else to explain a slump in form that is no longer merely a blip, but a full blown crisis. His howler for Barcelona's second goal - when Lionel Messi's daisy cutter should have been a routine save but squirmed under him - was mounting evidence of a season too far for the keeper. He is useless at the minute and has become a liability. His blunder in the Nou Camp was the latest in a long line of howlers, gaffes and mistakes that are costing us not only games, points and goals week in week out but also denting his own reputation. His ambigious contract situation surely hasn't helped his cause or ours, but if that's the reason for his error-strewn game, then that shows a weak mentality. He's certainly not alone there. Then there's the World Cup shenanigans when he was unfairly singled out as a scapegoat for Spain's earlier than expected exit after he let in six of the seven shots he faced. All this and you have De Gea's 2019 raison d'etre.
Of course, even the very best make mistakes and no one is infallible. But the charge sheet for De Gea is stacking up. At fault for West Ham's equaliser on Saturday, he can also be held accountable for Wolves winner in the league, Granit Xhaka's goal for Arsenal at the Emirates, the own goal that settled the first leg of the Barcelona quarter final, and Abdoulaye Doucoure's strike for Watford at Old Trafford. Six games, six big errors, and that's just in the last month alone. There are several others that I can think of this season alone. As good as he has been, he should be not be allowed to escape criticism. To put into perspective, Ashley Young gets a rough ride every week - justifiably so - but De Gea has been just as poor as him. The malaise has become a maelstrom.
Where De Gea could once be relied upon to bail United out every week, now there's only a lack of confidence, poor distribution and a failure to command his defence. His stock has fallen so far that when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer begins his summer overhaul, De Gea is no longer irreplacable. Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak and Milan's highly rated young keeper Gianluga Donnarumma, to name but two, would be more than adequate to fill the gloves.
De Gea thanks for the memories but it's time to say goodbye.
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