David de Gea or Dean Henderson? It is a question not just for this weekend, and the next, but for the following season too.
A report from the MEN this week claimed Henderson could force an exit if he is not made first choice at United in 2021/22. It would be a shame to say goodbye to a player who has barely fulfilled his potential with us.
The crux of the De Gea debate is whether he is past his best. If he was, it would be unusual considering goalkeepers often mature into their 30s and get better, but based on what we have seen over the last two season… he is on the downwards slope.
So it would be perfectly logical for United to back the younger Henderson and look to the future.
But there’s one massive problem if United do fall on Henderson’s side… what do we then do with David de Gea?
Big money substitute
De Gea cannot be kept around on the bench on his wages. It just makes no sense at all.
But United are in a tough spot after handing him a deal reported by The Telegraph to be worth up to £375,000 per week with bonuses.
United made that deal in 2019 amid fears he could walk on a free. This current contract runs to 2023.
This has bought De Gea a little time this season. And it could do next season too, but he has to earn the right to stay.
If United go with Henderson, then De Gea’s wages become a problem.
United owe it to De Gea to treat him well. He is currently the club’s 22nd highest appearance maker of all time with 433 games. The club cannot act like we have done with Sergio Romero and let him sit in the stands draining resources, while also stopping him playing.
A tough market to crack
Gone are the days when Europe’s top clubs were queuing up to sign De Gea. The likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona have far bigger problems than making a big money vanity signing to bring back a player who could be past his best.
That isn’t to say a deal is not possible, but it won’t be easy, especially with De Gea’s wages.
Perhaps he will be tempted to join Ander Herrera at PSG. The French side may be one of just a handful of four or five around Europe who could afford him, but then his wages on top of that, become very hard for any club to justify paying.
With players like Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland remaining dream targets for the likes of Madrid, De Gea will be an afterthought.
So how can United actually manage to move him on?
One solution is to try and find a middle ground again, and keep De Gea and Henderson, like this season. But then you end up with uncertainty and possibly two unhappy goalkeepers.
Another option is to hope he stars for Spain at Euro 2021, and offers begin to come in. But it could go the other way if he makes a big error.
The third option is to try and package De Gea in a swap deal for a top target. Could Real Madrid be tempted to do a player swap for Raphael Varane, who himself is on wages of around £200,000 per week?
The fourth option and possibly the most likely, is for United to take the Alexis Sanchez approach and send De Gea out on loan for the season.
This would enable a team to cover anywhere between 50 to 100 per cent of his wages, taking at least half his salary off United’s books. That’s preferable to paying £375,000 per week for a substitute, surely?
The upside would be De Gea mentally attunes to moving on, while the transfer market hopefully recovers.
By 2022, crowds should be fully back in stadiums, and the market should start to be more ambitious again. The Financial Times reported how the covid crisis impacted spending this past January. It was low across the board. It won’t be huge this summer either, and its the wrong year to try and sell De Gea.
Loan him out and sell in 2022, and United have a better chance of attracting buyers.
This all becomes futile if De Gea ups his game between now and May, and shows he should be United’s undisputed number one. But at the moment, it is very disputed.
A decision will have to be made this summer, and if it goes against De Gea, United will have to be creative to solve the thorny issue of ‘what comes next?’
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