Ahead of his trip to Old Trafford on Saturday evening Brendan Rodgers must have been cursing his luck as David De Gea, the goalkeeper who repelled his Liverpool team with a series of stunning saves in a 3-0 defeat there last December, deviated away from his early season stance of wanting out of Manchester and signed a new 4-year contract.
De Gea, with his club proudly tweeting about how sharp the Spaniard looked in training on Friday afternoon, is likely to go straight into the side and will provide immediate remedy to the uncertainty United have suffered in that position due to the unconvincing form of Sergio Romero.
To have his most reliable goalkeeper back will be a monumental boost to manager Louis Van Gaal as he finds himself under scrutiny following a sluggish start to the season and reports that members of his squad had confronted the Dutchman over his rigid training methods.
Bizarre transfer handling
The club’s bizarre handling of the closing stages of the summer transfer window, in which £36 million was lavished on the 19 year old Anthony Martial, a deal Van Gaal himself called “ridiculous”, and business was suddenly opened up with Real Madrid over De Gea after months of stand-off, will add further pressure to the Dutchman. To have his player of the season from last year available once again will provide relief.
The 24 year old picked up both United’s player of the year awards in the sole year of David Moyes and the duo of gongs he got last term were won by some margin so to bring De Gea in-line with United’s highest earners on a £200,000-a-week deal will be regarded by the club as justifiable.
Last season also saw him named in the PFA’s Team of the Season for a second time after a series of match-winning performances, which formed the basis of United’s 4th placed finish despite the troubles with acclimatising to Van Gaal’s style and demands.
Everton, Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Arsenal, Burnley and Manchester City all memorably experienced De Gea’s brilliance first-hand last season and for Van Gaal he was a massive insurance policy behind misfiring strikers, an unsettled defence and disjointed football.
United now undoubtedly look much stronger with De Gea back on board but there is something unsavoury about a U-turn which had De Gea on the brink of exiting Old Trafford and back to being revered in the space of a fortnight.
United will regain De Gea’s brilliance between the sticks but the main motivation behind this new deal is business. Real Madrid may still be lurking, reportedly unrelenting in their interest in the goalkeeper, but the prospect of losing De Gea for free next summer is no longer on the cards for United.
Key to bringing the Spaniard and his agent Jorge Mendes to the negotiating table may have been the inclusion of a buy-out clause which could facilitate a future move to Real, but United will be unconcerned as they are now, at least, guaranteed a fee and will not lose him in January.
United the main benefactor
With United of course the main benefactor, De Gea is now stable and can focus on becoming Spain’s number one for Euro 2016 in France next summer, with Vincent Del Bosque’s warning still ringing in his ears from the international break, and Mendes probably gets a slice of the pie for his involvement. Everybody’s a winner.
Madrid meanwhile are left with Keylor Navas, the Chilean who was chucked into the late deal for De Gea back on transfer deadline day, and Kika Casilla, a pair of goalkeepers who are not exactly accustomed to playing at an elite level.
Unless either of them proves to Rafael Benitez that they are capable of succeeding Iker Casillas to become a reliable number 1 at the Bernabeu, Madrid’s interest in De Gea is unlikely to waver. De Gea’s girlfriend also continues to live in Madrid.
Consider all those factors and it is therefore not entirely cynical to believe the underlying factor was to pre-arrange a deal with Madrid, similar to Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer back in 2009.
Shades of the Ronaldo saga
Madrid’s aggressive courting of Ronaldo the summer previous led United to form an official complaint with FIFA but with the Portuguese eventually persuaded to stay, after making his desire to move to the Spanish capital known, he led United to a third successive title win and a Champions League final before his exit.
De Gea will now be expected to have a similar galvanising effect on this team as he, starting with Liverpool on Saturday, restores his United career.
He will quickly go back to having his name sung by the thousands of Old Trafford residents who will have memories of his match-winning brilliance more vivid than his failure to play in any of their opening six games of this campaign due to distractions.
When they do they may be lauding a Real Madrid player in-waiting, but should they care? In a pragmatic, results-driven business where all that matters is the now, the answer is likely to be a firm “no”.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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