David De Gea may have to change under Erik Ten Hag at Manchester United

Ralf Rangnick has been learning all about Manchester United for the past few months. The German has been assessing the inner workings of the club since his appointment of him as interim manager in November.

As the end of the campaign approaches, the 63 year-old is beginning to conclude his thoughts. “I think apart from the goalkeeping, we need to make sure that we improve the squad in all areas,” he told Sky Sports in a recent interview.

Despite Rangnick’s vote of support for David de Gea, the Spanish goalkeeper should still be concerned about the future under the next boss. Erik ten Hag takes charge at United this summer and he might expect new contributions from his no.1.

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“For me, David [de Gea] has been outstanding since I arrived,” Rangnick added in that interview, when asked whether he will review United’s goalkeeping situation. “But this is an issue we can only speak about when we know who the new manager will be and how does he want to play.”

De Gea offers specific attributes between the sticks when it comes to goalkeeping. He’s regarded as one of the best shot-stoppers in England’s top-flight, and rightly so.

According to post-shot Expected Goals — which is based on the average player — De Gea should have conceded roughly 50.6 goals in the Premier League this season based on the shots that he’s faced, yet he’s shipped just 41, excluding own goals.

Those numbers mean he’s overperformed expectation by around 9.6 goals compared to the average goalkeeper, which is bettered by only Jose Sa at Wolves. His ability to save shots is strong and it has been for large periods of his career.

However, he seems to have some limitations across other departments. Based on goalkeepers who have played at least 1,000 minutes in the Premier League this season, De Gea places 21st from a possible 23 for defensive actions outside the penalty box per 90 minutes.

David de Gea during Manchester United’s defeat to Liverpool.

In short, he is certainly not a sweeper keeper. The average distance from goal of his defensive actions from him is 13.7 yards, compared to Alisson Becker on 17.6 yards and Ederson on 16.6 yards.

De Gea also doesn’t tend to come and claim crosses. So far this season, he’s stopped just 3.3 per cent of the crosses into the penalty box that he’s faced, placing him 22nd among his 23 peers of him, ahead of only Daniel Bachmann at Watford.

The 31 year-old isn’t particularly attack-minded by nature, and his passing is another part of his game that remains open to debate. De Gea has encountered difficulties when building from the back at times in recent months, showing a tendency to panic when under pressure from opponents.

If Ten Hag wishes to install a playing style which embraces building through the thirds of the pitch, De Gea could encounter problems. Ajax are renowned for such a brand of football, with Andre Onana developing a reputation for his ball-playing ability from him as his team’s no.1 under Ten Hag.

Around 50 per cent of De Gea’s goal-kicks have been launched this season, with a ‘launch’ defined as a pass longer than 40 yards. On top of that, around 37 per cent of his passes from him when building from the back have been launched, compared to 21.6 per cent for Alisson and 23.2 per cent for Ederson.

Rangnick is right that De Gea has been a solid servant during his short tenure at the club, but his nod towards the next coach is crucial. If Ten Hag wishes to truly change United on the pitch, his goalkeeper might have to start picking up new skills sooner rather than later.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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