If Man United think replacing David de Gea is going to answer all their problems then they have much bigger problems than we realised.
According to ESPNFC the Red Devils are planning to raid Atletico Madrid for Jan Oblak, aka the Oblaktopus, for a presumably stratospheric price for a player in a position they don’t need.
While Oblak is undoubtedly one of the best goalkeepers in Europe and any side would dream of the big Slovenian guarding their precious goal, bringing him to Old Trafford would not be a magic pill for several years of squad stagnation.
While De Gea may take the decision out of United’s hands by deciding he’s finally had enough of being the best player in a mediocre team, if this is not a decision of necessity then add it to the list of questionable strategic manouvres by Ed Woodward.
As it stands United are going to finish outside the top four again this season, the third time in the last four years, and Ole Gunnar Solkjaer has a huge rebuilding task on his hands to return the club to its former glories.
Jettisoning their standout performer in the last five years is not the way to do it.
This season has not been vintage De Gea, he’s looked more like the shaky presence we see when he lines up for Spain that the super-reliable presence who normally turns out for United.
It is his worst season in terms of errors leading directly to goals, with four in the Premier League this season, having made none last year.
His position in the starting XI is being seriously questioned and despite Solskjaer’s public backing it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see Sergio Romero given a run out at the last home game of the season.
However, De Gea’s three errors leading to goals in his last four games – those against Barca, Man City and Chelsea – is the same amount that he made in the previous 123 games for United in all competitions.
Since United entered their post-Fergie period of freefall/stagnation/rot, call it what you will, De Gea has time and time again been the best player in an underperforming team.
He has arguably been the only constant world class talent in a team of glamorous yet mostly underperforming stars – don’t forget he’s been United’s player of the year four times out of the last five seasons.
De Gea makes the top 10 for all-time Premier League saves (759) and clean sheets (100), to say he has been anything other than a collossus for United is to do the Spaniard a disservice.
His form may have dipped this term but even if United splash the cash on Oblak, and they would have to considering his €120million release clause, they are far more pressing issues with this squad that need to be addressed.
“I don’t have any worries about him because he’s a strong character. He’s not the reason why we’re in sixth position,” said Solskjaer after the 1-1 draw to Chelsea on Sunday.
That sentiment couldn’t be any more true right now.
United’s defence has been allowed to descend into the farcical situation of having 33-year-old Ashley Young starting at right-back.
Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have been handed new contracts and when you consider what De Gea is normally playing behind, it is a wonder he has stuck around for so long.
It feels like we have been saying this for years but United still need to sign a proper centre-back and right-back if they have any ambition on returning to the top four.
One of the other sticking points surrounding De Gea’s new contract, which expires in just over a year, is wages.
Since Woodward scooped City to the signing of Alexis Sanchez on £350,000-a-week and in doing so irrevocably inflated United’s wage system, De Gea wants a piece of the pie.
It’s a fair demand, why should De Gea watch Sanchez pocket millions with terrible performances on the pitch while he puts in consistently brilliant displays for a paltry £200,000-a-week.
And as always, PSG are waiting in the wings happy to match De Gea’s demands with a juicy pay packet.
For Woodward it comes down to this, either pay your best player what he is worth in the current market, or watch him leave to PSG and spend upwards of £100million on Oblak to pay him the same amount De Gea wants.
The choice seems simple, but United hardly do anything simple these days.
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