Unless there is one more twist in David de Gea’s contract situation, the Spanish goalkeeper will become a free agent on Friday at midnight.
Of course, United can re-sign him after that. However, given that De Gea’s contract position was a topic of conversation when he spoke to the traveling media in a Perth hotel room last July, it would be unusual for United to go back in for the 32-year-old after all this time for negotiation.
If this is the end, it will be a difficult and somewhat unedifying retirement for a man who will go down as one of United’s greatest goalkeepers.
In retrospect, De Gea should have left Old Trafford after the final home game of last season against Fulham, with the supporters’ adoration still ringing in his ears.
Erik ten Hag presented De Gea with the Golden Glove award that day, capping up a season in which he smashed Alex Stepney’s and Peter Schmeichel’s appearance and clean sheet records.
Schmeichel galloped off into the sunset clutching the European Cup after announcing his departure six months earlier, but not every player gets to write his own screenplay.
Ten Hag stated after the Fulham game that he was optimistic De Gea will sign the new contract. A week later, at Wembley, the goalie was back in the spotlight after conceding Ilkay Gundogan’s vital second goal in the FA Cup final.
Ten Hag declined to blame De Gea but agreed that he needed to work on ‘problems’ with his distribution following another wayward performance with the ball at his feet.
So, what changes have occurred in the last month? Only Ten Hag knows whether the happenings at Wembley that day caused him to reassess United’s goalkeeping predicament.
What has become evident is that the Dutchman refused to sign off on a contract that had been agreed upon between the club and De Gea, which would have reduced his weekly income of £375,000, as Mail Sport revealed earlier this month.
Even if De Gea signs it, he knows he will no longer be considered United’s No. 1 goalkeeper, with Ten Hag set to bring in someone with superior feet.
From looking for No. 2 goalkeepers in the £15m range, United is now considering Inter Milan’s Andre Onana, who would cost closer to £50m – a significant shift in a transfer window where Ten Hag is operating with a limited budget due to Financial Fair Play.
After 12 years as the undisputed No. 1, it’s difficult to envision De Gea continuing to play for a manager who has clearly lost faith in him. His status, as well as his compensation, would suffer.
From Ten Hag’s perspective, it appears that he will get his way and sign a new goalkeeper, possibly Onana, who played for him at Ajax. The United manager enjoys working with familiar faces.
He is following in the footsteps of Pep Guardiola, who fired Joe Hart shortly after joining Manchester City in 2016 due to the England goalkeeper’s distribution.
But that happened nearly instantly. The lingering question is why Ten Hag took so long to make this decision.
People adapt, and sportsmen develop, but De Gea was never going to transform into a ball player four months shy of his 33rd birthday. This might have been dealt with much sooner.
Of course, the scenario could alter again while there is still time. After all, this is a player who was a faulty fax machine away from joining Real Madrid late on deadline day in 2015.
This time, it appears that more than a gremlin in the system will be required to keep De Gea at United.