When the going gets tough, you have to either stick or twist. For Manchester United, they’ll be tempted to twist when it comes to David de Gea.
De Gea is in the worst form of his career at this moment in time. Barely a week goes by without the Spaniard committing some sort of mistake. This week it was Chelsea’s turn.
In form, De Gea would have had no issues dealing with Antonio Rudiger’s effort. The defender’s 30-yard shot was tame and not all that difficult to control. Yet, form and luck are against the Spanish goalkeeper.
He mis-controlled the effort, spilled it to Marco Alonso, and in seconds Chelsea were level. It was the latest in a series of error from De Gea this season and the most recent to cost United dearly. After his mistake effectively ended their Champions League hopes, this one may put the final nail in their efforts to finish in the top four.
De Gea is proving to be a massive problem for United and one that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his team don’t have a remedy for. After several years or world-class performances, the Spaniard has hit a low that once looked impossible for him.
The easy option would be to take him out of the firing line. Drop the goalkeeper for the final two games of the season and hope that his replacement, Sergio Romero, can do enough to help an upturn in form. That, though, is the wrong route for United. First and foremost, what would that do to De Gea?
The Spaniard’s confidence is already at an all-time low. That was evident in how he reacted to his latest gaffe. There was a sense of desperation around the keeper’ and a look of bewilderment. Nothing is going right, and that is only eating into his own belief. He needs the backing of his team and manager to build that backup.
Dropping him now would only help to erode his confidence further. It would not only show that the club has lost faith in him but that they are blaming him for their current problems as well. He knows he’s not performing well at present, but he doesn’t need to know his club think it as well. That would be twice as demoralising as knowing it himself.
And that is not going to improve his form. The best way for De Gea to get him out of this run of form is to play his way out of it. He needs to rebuild his confidence on the pitch, prove his doubters wrong and stand up and face the criticism. It worked for him in the past, and it will work again. If he can focus on his football, the performances will come. Anyone who’s watched him over the years knows the talent is there, after all. The opposite would only help to ruin his chances of turning things around.
It would also push him further away from Old Trafford. De Gea’s contract expires in a year, and so far neither party is close to reaching an agreement to renew. Ditching him at this point would only convince De Gea to turn his back on the club.
It would show that the good credit that he has built up over the last five years, in which he has been United’s best player by some distance, means nothing. It would show that loyalty is not something that is offered at Old Trafford. De Gea is only likely to respond to such a scenario in kind. If the club doesn’t show loyalty to him, why should he show it to them?
De Gea will only look for a move elsewhere, of which there will be plenty of offers, and have little thought for how that would affect Manchester United. That’s a dangerous situation for United to be in. They can ill afford to lose De Gea for nothing if they’re to lose him at all.
It’s a tough decision to make given how badly things are going at present, but United have to back De Gea in his time of need. If they don’t, it could have ramifications that even a big club like Manchester United don’t want to face.