Whatever the result is against Crystal Palace, this will be the worst season ever for Manchester United in the Premier League in terms of points won. After Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked in November, Ralf Rangnick took over as interim manager, however, he’s been unable to improve the team’s performances.
The result against Palace will confirm whether United play in the Europa League or Europa Conference League next season under new manager Erik ten Hag, though qualification for neither competition was on the agenda at the start of the season. Two players who have generally avoided blame for United’s displays have been Cristiano Ronaldo and David de Gea. While neither has been perfect, they have had better seasons the majority of their teammates and the fans have appreciated their efforts.
However, De Gea seems to think that this season was one of his best in a United shirt. He told the club’s in-house media: “We all know it’s been a tough season for us. But for myself, I’m very proud of my season, to be honest.
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“I worked really hard in the summer to come here, to be ready to play, to show my qualities and to try to help the team and I think I did very well, the best and good as I can. I think I played very consistent this season and I helped the team a lot, so I’m happy with my performance. Maybe it’s one of my best seasons. I’ve had very good seasons before but I think it’s been a very good one.”
United have conceded 56 league goals this season, the most in any season since the Premier League’s inception. And while De Gea is not completely to blame for this, he must shoulder some of the blame as part of the defensive unit.
While the Spaniard’s shot-stopping has been excellent for the majority of the season, questions have been asked about his lack of proactivity. De Gea hardly ever ventures off his line, leaving massive gaps behind the defense for attackers to exploit and he’s also slow to claim crosses and balls that fall loose in the area.
His distribution also plays a part in this, as lackluster goal kicks and long passes have often resulted in United losing possession and it has invited more pressure on the defence. This is not the first time that De Gea has seemingly been oblivious to his own shortcomings from him.
Earlier in the season, he said in an interview with UEFA: “What a goalkeeper has to do is to stop goals going in; that’s the most important thing. And then, if you have the talent or the quality to be able to play with your feet and have good vision, that’s phenomenal.I feel very comfortable playing with my feet, playing out from the back, and following the lead of my team, but it depends on the coach and the style of play.
“[With Spain we] play with a very high defensive line. I’ve played this way since I was in the youth teams. [At United] we try to play with a high line, but some players are very fast and very talented, and if the pressing is not good enough, you can have problems at the back. But for the goalkeeper, you need to be off your line, looking out for any potential pass in behind to be able to help your defence.
Having watched De Gea play for the past few years, United fans were quick to point out that, although the goalkeeper seemed aware of what was being asked of him, he did not do it. Ten Hag is one of the coaches that the Spanish shot-stopper described and he will ask a lot more of the goalkeeper than is currently being asked of him.
the Manchester Evening News understands that Dean Henderson is set to leave this summer to join Newcastle United, all but confirming De Gea as the number one for the next season. Time will tell whether he is up to scratch or whether the club will look for a long-term replacement when his contract expires in 2023.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.