David de Gea’s dodgy kicking shows why Manchester United are in the market for a goalkeeper

David de Gea’s dodgy kicking shows why Manchester United are in the market for a goalkeeper

Erik ten Hag and David de Gea alongside each other - De Gea's dodgy kicking shows why Manchester United are in the market for a goalkeeper - Getty Images/Matthew Peters

Erik ten Hag and David de Gea alongside each other – De Gea’s dodgy kicking shows why Manchester United are in the market for a goalkeeper – Getty Images/Matthew Peters

Erik ten Hag says he “can’t ignore” David De Gea’s struggles playing out from the back against Real Betis but believes the Manchester United goalkeeper’s distribution has improved.

De Gea’s blunder late in the first half of Thursday’s Europa League tie at Old Trafford almost handed Betis a 2-1 lead after the goalkeeper gifted the ball straight to Juanmi, only for Ayoze Perez’s subsequent shot to bounce back off a post. The Spaniard had already turned over possession in a dangerous area before then and missed his intended target with a series of long balls as well as kicking a wild pass into touch. United went on to win 4-1 but it was an unconvincing night from De Gea.

United are in talks with De Gea about extending his contract on reduced terms but the club are actively scouting for goalkeepers and among those interested in Brentford’s David Raya. Porto’s Diogo Costa is another who has been watched.

Ten Hag’s priority in the summer transfer window is the recruitment of a pedigree striker, with Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Victor Osimhen of Napoli the principal targets, and beyond that another top class midfielder. How United would fund a move for a goalkeeper as well is unclear, particularly as Ten Hag also wants to strengthen the full-back position.

Ten Hag, however, says there has been improvement in the distribution element of De Gea’s game this season.

“From today I can’t ignore it, but I think we have seen many games he did really well,” the United manager said. “I don’t know what the reason today was. There was a lot of wind, a different ball, probably he had some problems with that, but I know we can deal with it and he will do better Sunday [against Southampton].”

Asked if he had any wider concerns about De Gea’s distribution, Ten Hag added: “We work on that but David is working on that. But I think we have seen in this season that he is improving and he will keep improving, I’m sure.”

De Gea is on £375,000 a week but Ten Hag does not believe he’s the future

By James Ducker

If money were no object this summer, Erik ten Hag would be signing another goalkeeper. He likes Raya at Brentford and United have also scouted Porto’s Costa, among others. Whether there will be the funds to bring in a long-term replacement for De Gea, though, is another matter.

Ten Hag’s priority is the recruitment of a top class centre-forward to fill the clear void in that position, and Tottenham’s Kane and Osimhen of Napoli are the leading targets. Wout Weghorst is hardworking and has given United a much needed body in attack given Martial’s perennial fitness struggles but the Dutchman is no more than a cheap stopgap whose limitations are obvious.

Beyond that, Ten Hag wants another pedigree midfielder, with the likes of Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong, Jude Bellingham at Borussia Dortmund and Brighton’s Moises Caicedo all on his radar. United have also been linked with West Ham’s Declan Rice but Arsenal seem to be making the early running there. Ten Hag also admires Mohammed Kudus, who operates both as an attacking midfielder and forward for Ajax, and Chelsea’s Mason Mount.

Signing a striker and midfielder at those levels would be very expensive business and dependent not only on the club qualifying for the Champions League but selling well. Bearing in mind that Ten Hag is also in the market for a full-back, the prospect of being able to invest a substantial fee on a goalkeeper seems unlikely at this stage, unless his priorities change and recruitment of a new No 1 becomes a focus.

Ten Hag believes De Gea’s distribution has improved over the course of the season as the team has grown and the club are in talks about an extended deal on vastly reduced terms from his existing £375,000 a week wages.

But the manager did not attempt to gloss over De Gea’s struggles in the Europa League against Real Betis this week and has harboured doubts since he took over about whether the 32-year-old is good enough with his feet to get United to where he wants in the medium to long-term. The question is whether he feels he can get through another season with De Gea before revisiting that situation in summer 2024. The Spaniard has probably done enough to justify that but this, more than anything, seems likely to be a decision influenced by money.

There are few better goalkeepers when it comes to reflex saves, and De Gea has saved United on a number of occasions this term, most recently in the 3-1 FA Cup win over West Ham when he made two vital interventions against Michail Antonio. Yet he also looked unsteady at times playing out from the back in that game and Betis was a reminder of the shortcomings.

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