We've seen four matches since the Premier League returned on Wednesday night. Two of them featured Manchester United goalkeepers. One of those goalkeepers marshalled a defence with ease and kept a comfortable clean sheet. The other produced yet another calamity and cost his team two points.
That Dean Henderson kept a clean sheet for Sheffield United is nothing new. In truth, he didn't have very much to do at Villa Park on Wednesday, but when he's called upon, he's there. He's been arguably one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League this season. David de Gea has been a mess at Henderson's parent club for a long time.
Roy Keane grabbed headlines last night with his half time rant. That was no surprise. As usual, Keane's rant was highly entertaining, over the top, and the conversation afterwards was about Roy Keane. Lost in it all wass what he's actually saying. This wasn't him going off about one mistake by David de Gea. This was a culmination of a player whose form has been terrible for a long time and who regularly makes the kind of mistakes a club of that size can't afford their goalkeeper to be making.
On Wednesday night, the Uniteds of Sheffield and Manchester will meet, but unfortunately Henderson's loan agreement will mean he'll be watching the game from his home. It may however start a much needed conversation about where United turn to with their crisis between the posts.
It’s time to bring back Dean Henderson. De Gea been terrible for way too long.
— UnitedReview (@TheUtdReview) June 19, 2020
The problem isn't just David de Gea though. It's that Manchester United are now behind the curve, playing catch up on smarter and better run clubs. In Alex Ferguson's time, de Gea would have been out the door at least 12 months ago. United would have £80 million in the bank
In the NFL, it's taken General Managers across the league over a decade to realise that Bill Belichick has been playing them. A great player becomes available for a seemingly cut price and they jump at it. The moves invariably worked out well for the New England Patriots because the coach had seen the signs before anyone else. The end was nigh. Let's get what we can. Now they're on to him, but Belichick is on to the next thing, still ahead of the curve, and the rest of the league try to figure it out.
At Manchester United, Alex Ferguson was that man. He could be ruthless at times. Letting Roy Keane go in 2005 was as cut throat as it gets. Keane is still bitter about the way it was handled to this day. But an injury plagued five months with Celtic later, and Keane was retired. Time and again, Ferguson was ahead of the curve, and it was the other teams in the league who missed out.
Nowadays, United are the ones missing out. Bruno Fernandes looks to be the exception that proves the rule, but look at what else has gone on there in recent years. Manchester United fans will argue with you all day about the merits of Paul Pogba, but the truth is, he hangs like an albatross around the club's neck. His price is too high, his wages too steep. United are stuck with him.
Another criminal of last night's Tottenham goal, Harry Maguire is another prime example. A team like Manchester United overpaying the player they want is not the issue. A team like Manchester United showing transparent desperation for the flavour of the month is.
Harry Maguire • £80 Million Pound Superstar 🔥 pic.twitter.com/rxujMqQUIJ
— TLV (@TheLampardView) June 19, 2020
The dogs on the street knew Maguire is not the best defender in the world. There were better options available, but United were about making a splash, taking the safe option. Why was getting Maguire so important that Leicester could name their price and make him the most expensive defender in world football? Aston Villa will look on when it comes to offloading Jack Grealish. Dortmund would only love United to be in the race for Jadon Sancho.
— Gary Connaughton (@gconnaughton15) June 19, 2020
It's not that these players aren't good enough, or that they're not what the club need. But are they the smartest option? Okay, for every Cristiano Ronaldo United uncovered, there was a a Bebe, but that was the cost of doing business. It was the cost and reward of taking risks. You could argue Manchester United didn't replace Peter Schmeichel until Edwin Van Der Sar came along. But they knew Schmeichel's time was up. They took the risks. The continued to win league titles while they figured it out because those risks were being taken across the board.
Now. it's about safety. Sure, they could make a huge profit and offload David de Gea, replacing him with their own player, but will they? They know what they have in de Gea. They've been telling themselves for years he's their key man. They've given him contract after contract begging him to stay. The club they've become will stick with what they have, even if what they have is clearly not good enough.
It's seven years since Manchester United have won the title. Coming fourth is as much as they can dream of right now. Another seven years will pass very quickly.