£375,000/week. That’s the albatross hanging around Manchester United’s neck in the form of David de Gea’s contract. While that seems harsh to say about a club legend, who’s now also the all-time record clean sheet holder, football waits for nobody.
David de Gea was the shining light for the club in its darkest years. However, there’s a sense now that for the team to move on from its darkest time, it needs to let go of that shining light.
This season, David de Gea has been his usual self, in both, the best and worst aspects. Unbelievable reflex saves have been followed by head-scratching howlers, especially with the ball at his feet. There is a nagging feeling among fans and experts alike that for the team to take the next step, and for the manager to be able to implement his style of play, Manchester United need to move on from David de Gea and secure a more modern, progressive keeper.
A recent report by the Athletic has said that de Gea has already turned down United’s first offer of a contract extension containing a pay cut. While there is acceptance on both sides that de Gea will need to take a pay cut to stay at the club, it would be better for all parties to cut the chord altogether.
Here are the top three potential replacements for David de Gea if the club makes the difficult but necessary decision to part ways with the club legend.
David Raya (Brentford)
This is a move that almost makes too much sense. Raya’s contract at Brentford expires next summer so he will most certainly be available for a cut-price fee this summer. In an ideal world, United would convince de Gea to take a pay cut and stay on as a deputy to David Raya. However, even if that doesn’t happen, Raya should still be the club’s no 1 target.
Besides the obvious bargain to be had financially, Raya fits the perfect mould of a keeper in an Erik ten Hag team.
Erik ten Hag likes his team to press from the front. However, due to de Gea’s struggles with the ball at his feet, and his reluctance to move away from his area, United have been forced to go long often this season.
David Raya would transform this dynamic. A peek at the numbers of the two goalkeepers reveals the stark difference in playing style.
According to FBRef, David Raya has had 75 touches in the mid-third of the pitch, routinely venturing out of his area to act as a sweeper keeper. This allows his team to play a high line and press in the opponent’s half, forcing mistakes.
David de Gea, on the other hand, has a total of FOUR touches in the same area of the pitch. Raya’s progressive carrying distance stands at nearly 2,900 yards, almost double that of de Gea, at 1,528. Therefore, not only does Raya take possession of the ball higher up the pitch, but he also carries it further, almost acting as the 11th outfielder on the pitch. This helps the team maintain possession.
United have been found out this season when they have tried to play the ball out from the back. Raya would instantly change that dynamic.
Furthermore, de Gea’s Hollywood saves have given him the reputation of being a world-class shot-stopper. The stats don’t support that claim. With a post-shot Expected goal-Goals allowed figure of -0.13 (Conceded more than expected of an average keeper), de Gea ranks in the 20th percentile of all keepers in Europe’s top-5 leagues.
David Raya ranks in the 71st percentile of the same stat, with a positive figure of 0.09. (All stats from FBRef)
Therefore, in David Raya, United would be getting a massive upgrade in ball-playing, as well as a minor upgrade in shot-stopping as well. Furthermore, getting a £375,000k/week contract off the wage bill would do wonders for United’s looming FFP crisis.