“Ole’s at the wheel mate, Man United are back!”
The famous words said by Rio Ferdinand after Manchester United rallied back in the second leg to beat PSG in the 2019 UCL. They are words that have been echoed by fans again recently and who could blame them? Manchester United are in their first true title challenge since the final year of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign. And before Wednesday, we were on a 13 match unbeaten run in the league.
Although, all good things must come to an end, not necessarily in the manner in which they did. With their 2-1 defeat at the hands of relegation bound Sheffield United, the unbeaten streak has ended being leaped frogged by their city rivals in the table. But, the team still sits second in the table only a point behind their city rivals.
There is still much of the season to play and many reasons for optimism. For starters, we all knew there would be another bump in the road before the end of the season. What matters now is how the team bounces back. Manchester United will play host to Arsenal this Saturday and a win there will ease all tension and relight the spark. While there are many reasons to think this likely, there is one very important reason as to why it may not happen.
David De Gea
Number one is the goal keeping position and the long time club number one David De Gea. The arrival of Dean Henderson at the beginning of the season certainly lit a fire under De Gea’s backside, but that fire is quickly dying out. There have been few games this season in which United fans could thank De Gea for securing the win, yet there seems to be some notion he’s back to his best. Sure he’s made a few tremendous and potentially game saving saves this campaign, but none that one could say Dean Henderson would be incapable of making.
David De Gea could also be labeled as the sole culprit for almost every set piece goals conceded by united this season. De Gea has quick reflexes but he’s lost his confidence and doesn’t show any authority on the pitch. De Gea’s weaknesses were laid bare for all to see in each of the goals conceded to Sheffield United. The first goal showed De Gea’s lack of initiative and confidence, as well as a real lack of strength and grit. While the second goal again showed his lack of confidence, but also his lack of commanding authority. The number one needs to be the loudest and most authoritative man on the pitch when a team is in defense. Since his miserable World Cup with Spain in 2018, De Gea has shown none of that.
More often than not De Gea has been caught out of position or been too weak in the air. Combine that with his inability to successfully and consistently play from the back or play long balls and you’ve identified one of United’s biggest weaknesses. It’s time for Dean Henderson to get a good run of games. That may not solve the issue in the end, but there is only potential and upside with playing the 23 year old Henderson between the sticks right now.