Manchester United fans should be happy to see David de Gea move on this summer after their side beat Manchester City 2-0 on Sunday afternoon.
The win will almost certainly not be enough to throw City off the pursuit of the Premier League title, and the gap is a likely insurmountable 11 points with only 10 games remaining. United have shown on too many occasions this season that they simply do not have the ability to stay consistent, and can't guarantee even a point against some of the smaller sides in the league.
There is, though, hope. United are second in the league and after seeing the struggles of the teams below them, it’s a reasonable argument to make that they are clearly the second best side in the league, and any failure to secure a top-two finish would be an indictment of their mindset. A disappointment despite their obvious failings.
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Brandon Williams, Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire and Dean Henderson of Manchester United
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United have been here before, of course. They have looked set to kick on at the end of one season only to be hamstrung by Ed Woodward and the Glazers, and set their manager up for a fall. For Louis van Gaal, they promised Sergio Ramos and instead ultimately made him rely upon Chris Smalling and Phil Jones in central defence. For Jose Mourinho, they hinted Toby Alderweireld would be on his way only to renege, and give him Fred, Diogo Dalot and Lee Grant.
In both instances, United were unable to move on from palpable improvement and instead found themselves back in chaos. Each time they have had the chance to put together a strategy they have instead set fire to the blueprint. This time, there is an obvious way through for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his bosses, and getting rid of De Gea should be the start.
The 30-year-old Spanish international has been a brilliant player for the club but for the past two years he has been wretched most of the time, and unreliable for almost all of the rest of it. Occasionally he has demonstrated his unfathomably elastic limbs to rescue his side, or remind observers of his talents, but his limitations have become more pressing. He does not come off his line to challenge for through-balls, organise the back line, or dominate his area as he should do. Nor does he seem comfortable with the ball at his feet - exacerbated by the fact that neither do three of the usual back four.
De Gea is now out of the side for a few weeks after the birth of his first child, and for his career the absence has come at a dreadful point. The impressive, unfussy and effective display from Dean Henderson now gives the England keeper the chance to lay the foundations of a solid claim to finish the season as the club’s first choice. Once established, there is little temptation for any manager to switch between the sticks regularly, particularly as Solskjaer can see how vulnerable his defence has been throughout most of the season.
Henderson has shown that he is capable of launching attacks, as he has done on a couple of occasions before his pass to Luke Shaw against Manchester City. His goalkeeping is now no worse than De Gea’s, and he earns less money, around £100,000 a week. By selling De Gea, United would free up a reported £375,000 a week, and potentially raise some funds if Paris Saint-Germain made a move for him. There are plenty of areas where United need reinforcement.
The first is in front of goal, where Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof are competitively untrustworthy. At right-back, there needs to be a more attacking replacement for Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who seems fantastic in one-on-ones but largely vulnerable when the game takes place further away from him.
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In midfield, United will probably have to send Paul Pogba on his way rather than allow him to leave for nothing, and Solskjaer’s indifferent treatment of Donny van de Beek means another central midfielder could be required, though the focus will probably be up front. Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho would both be upgrades on any of the players who currently have a shot at starting up front.
Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, Edinson Cavani and Dan James should all consider themselves at risk, either too old, or young enough but not quite good enough. Someone like Haaland or Sancho would surely need wages of the level earned by De Gea, so getting rid would help balance the squad.
While it would be a gamble that De Gea would somehow rediscover his form for someone else, the chances of such a resurgence are better in a new environment able to stimulate him. OId Trafford will probably never be the best place for him again. There is nothing wrong with ruthlessness when it comes to challenging for the trophies. Something that Solskjaer and Woodward should remember this summer.
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