Getting rid of a goalkeeper who’d just won the Golden Glove could be considered a misguided move, but 17 Premier League cleen sheets masked what was another disappointing campaign for David De Gea. The Spaniard’s inability to effectively operate as an 11th outfielder has routinely been scrutinised, and this weakness to his game really came to the fore in the FA Cup final defeat to Manchester City, that proved to be his final game in a Manchester United shirt after he confirmed his Old Trafford exit on Saturday.
De Gea made more inaccurate passes (18) than any other player at Wembley last month, and against a City side that will dominate possession, this seemed to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for Erik ten Hag. “There are occasions in the game, issues in the game, we have to improve,” the United boss said when pressed on De Gea’s problematic distribution in the wake of the 2-1 loss to their city rivals.
Having signed Mason Mount this week, and a new striker another priority, United need to strengthen between the sticks this summer.
The well-documented decision to withdraw their contract offer for De Gea means United are seeking another goalkeeper, and despite being linked with Diogo Costa and David Raya, Inter’s Andre Onana has emerged as the number one target for Ten Hag’s side.
While the two teams are yet to agree a fee, the general consensus is that United will head into the new season with Onana as their new No 1, and the Cameroonian goalkeeper will prove an immediate upgrade on De Gea. The former Atletico man had established himself as one of the best shotstoppers in the game, but even here he fell short of Onana’s return in their respective leagues last season.
De Gea’s save success rate of 69.7% was lower than Onana (73.8%) in Serie A in 2022/23, with the 27-year-old proving a more than capable last line of defence for the Nerazzurri.
However, the core reasoning behind United’s interest in Onana was that he is a far stronger performer with the ball at his feet than De Gea.
Goalkeepers nowadays need to not only prevent opponents from scoring, but play their part in instigating attacks from defence, be it through short passes to the centre-backs, or raking, long balls out wide.
Onana was hugely effective at helping set Inter on the front foot last season, as he chipped in with 6.1 accurate long balls per 90, a significant improvement on De Gea (4.9). In addition, despite looking to pick out an opponent from distance more frequently, the former outshone the latter considerably.
Onana yielded a long ball success rate of 44.7% in Italy’s top tier last term, that’s a rise on De Gea’s return of 35.7%. Considering United scored more counter-attacking goals (nine) than any other Premier League team last season, a goalkeeper capable of picking out a teammate from range would go a long way to benefiting this United side. Not only is Onana the superior goalkeeper with the ball at his feet, but his command of the area would be a huge bonus for Ten Hag’s team.
A goalkeeper who is prepared to come for crosses or long balls into the box eases pressure on the backline, and crucially, will exude confidence throughout the defence.
Again, this is another area that Onana betters De Gea in. The Inter man averaged 0.50 high ball claims per 90 in Serie A last season, that an increase of the 32-year-old’s return of 0.37. You only have to look at Ederson’s claim late on in last month’s Champions League final to fully appreciate the importance of a goalkeeper who is prepared to come off his line in dominant fashion, and it’s another area where Onana trumps De Gea.
While previously United would have prioritised other areas, Ten Hag’s decision to actively pursue another goalkeeper on the back of the FA Cup final has taken them to Onana. The pair worked together at Ajax, meaning the Dutchman is already aware of the former Cameroon international’s strengths, which bodes well for United heading into next season.
De Gea has been a loyal servant to the club since his 2011 arrival from Atletico Madrid, but football is a ruthless business and if United are to improve upon last season’s top-four finish and Carabao Cup success, then there is little room for sentiment. They’ll be a far more testing proposition with Onana in goal next season as a result.
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