Football News

“A goalkeeper out of his time” – David de Gea exposed by Brighton battering Manchester United

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 20:39, 7 May 2022

Brighton gave David de Gea a rude awakening at the AMEX Stadium, smashing Manchester United 4-0.

De Gea has long been Manchester United’s no. 1 goalkeeper and is often regarded as one of the few untouchable members of the squad, someone who is not to blame for United’s current malaise.

And while it may be true that De Gea isn’t the cause of United’s struggles, he is definitely holding them back from becoming a fully modern football club because while he is often a supreme shot-stopper, he is weak in almost every other area of the game.

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We saw against Brighton that even if De Gea’s kicking isn’t an active problem, it prevents Manchester United from building attacks coherently from the back, making them all too easy to press into turnovers.

What’s more, relying on saves also brings its own problems because if all you’re doing is making saves them the second you stop saving everything, what are you bringing to the team?

Of Brighton’s four goals, two you could argue were directly attributable to De Gea’s issues while another, Marc Cucurella’s thumderbolt, was a player exploiting a classic weakness of the Spaniard (leaving too much space at his near-post).

Moises Caicedo’s goal was a nice feelgood strike, but De Gea’s attempt to save it was miserable, going down in slow motion like Edwin van der Sar began to do at the end of his career, only the Dutch stopper was 41 at the time, not 31 as the Spaniard is now.

And trhe third goal where Danny Welbeck chipped him only for Diogo Dalot’s clearance to bounce in off Leandro Trossard, showed that De Gea’s hesitance to leave his line too often opens things up (not to mention going down early against Welbeck, a former team-mate De Gea should know likes to try chips as he watched him infamously loft the ball into Manuel Neuer’s chest back in 2014, was so bad).

But looking forward to Erik Ten Hag’s reign at Manchester United and the Dutch coach loves to play a passing style of football that requires the goalkeeper be able to pass the ball.

Looking at the last two seasons of Premier League football, one would easily see how Ten Hag could conclude that Robert Sanchez in the Brighton goal is much more of a Ten Hag-style stopper than his own Spaniard. After all, Sanchez has taken De Gea’s place as the no. 1 goalkeeper for the Spanish national team.

Both De Gea and Sanchez have played similar minutes (5625 for De Gea and 5579 for Sanchez) but Brighton’s man has completed more passes (1,562) than De Gea has even attempted (1,270). When it comes to long passes attempted, Sanchez has over 500 more than De Gea and he’s taken almost double the touches (2,879 vs. 1,734). He is a featured part of the Brighton attack and it shows.

Moving De Gea on is going to be a problem, however. As James Robson of the Evening Standard said on the Squawka Talker: “United simply cannot get rid of him, there is simply no one on the planet who can afford his wages.”

“You’ve got the situation that Chelsea have got where they’ve got the world’s most expensive goalkeeper who’s the back-up. Now they got away with that because they had a billionaire who didn’t mind spending all the money in the world on that squad,” adding in reference to United: “most clubs can’t operate like that.”

“I just don’t see another club being able to take De Gea. Who is the club that’s going to pay close to £400,000 a week for him? And United would probably like a fee for him as well. So I just can’t see that happening.”

Robson also added that De Gea isn’t even a good stylistic fit for United, regardless of his lack of ability with his feet, saying: “De Gea has been at his best when United have been at their worst. That is because he’s a wonderful shot-stopper, he has amazing agility, also I think he’s a goalkeeper who needs to be kept busy.”

“If you look back to someone like Edwin van der Sar, his brilliance was that he might be called upon once or twice a game, but he’d pull it off, he’d pull off a great save. De Gea, I think he has these massive lapses in concentration, but when he’s constantly getting battered that’s when he’s at his best.”

“When you’re looking at an Ederson or an Alisson, he’s just not at that level.”

Robson concluded with the devastating conclusion on David de Gea at Manchester United: “he’s a goalkeeper out of his time.”