“While I agree that de Gea was a much better keeper previously than he appears to be now,” says Patrick Cullen, “I always felt that the things he was good at were a way of making up for the things he was so bad at – that the need to make those unbelievable reflex saves came about from a basic inability to command his area and impose himself on the opposition’s attackers, and just as importantly, his own defenders. Yes, without doubt, United could improve on their central defensive partnership, but without a dominant goalkeeper behind them to organise things, there’s a limit to what even the best defenders in the world can achieve.”
That’s fair, though I do think he has become even less dominant in the last few years. I don’t think hed have conceded that Calvert-Lewin goal, for example, in 2017.
“It is all good saying DDG has declined (and he surely has),” says Kelechi Dennar. “However, we also need to ask whether he has declined to a level where Henderson is now better? He is nowhere near that 2018 level but I think he is still at a high level. I suspect this will be DDG’s last season at United but I am not sure Henderson has proven to be a better option by his fee performances so far. Next season, all bets are off.”
Agreed. I’m not sure about Henderson yet, though he is more dominant and he wouldn’t have conceded that Everton equaliser last week. He is also on the way up. If United do try to sign a new keeper in the summer, I’d go for Martinez. Villa won’t want to sell but anything’s possible in modern football.
A debatable Ruben Neves penalty has brought Wolves level at Southampton. It’s 1-1 with half an hour remaining.
“Good afternoon Rob,” says Jon Collins. “Looking at that Manchester United teamsheet, the weakest point is now surely David de Gea. It’s sad to see a player who single-handedly made them competitive for years become a liability, but how much longer do you think Solskjaer will stick with him?”
I think it’s already been too long, and he certainly hasn’t consulted his What Would Fergie Do book. One of the saddest things about all this is that a lot of people have forgotten how astoundingly good de Gea was from 2012-18. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a keeper make so many miraculous reflex saves. But he’s been struggling for nearly three years now, so it’s quite a leap of faith to think it’s ever coming back.
It’s already been a bad-news day for United, who will now be stuck with the Maguire/Lindelof partnership until the end of days.
West Brom (4-1-4-1) Johnstone; Peltier, Ajayi, Bartley, Townsend; Yokuslu; Snodgrass, Maitland-Niles, Gallagher, Pereira; Diagne.
Substitutes: Button, Furlong, O’Shea, Livermore, Phillips, Sawyers, Robson-Kanu, Robinson, Grant.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1) de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred; Rashford, Fernandes, Martial; Cavani.
Substitutes: Henderson, Bailly, Telles, Williams, Tuanzebe, James, Matic, van de Beek, Greenwood.
Referee Craig Pawson.
Hello. The predictability of modern football means that, in most Premier League seasons, the expectations and ambition of a particular team stay roughly the same from autumn to spring: win the title, finish top four, avoid relegation, etc etc. But in 2020-21, most clubs have had to regularly revise their hopes and dreams.
Take Manchester United. In September, their realistic ambition was to finish third for the second season in a row, while getting closer to the points tally of Liverpool and Manchester City. After a desperate start to the season, a top-four place became a reasonable aim. Then, for a few giddy weeks after Christmas, they were outsiders for the title. Now, with Manchester City suddenly omnipotent, United’s sights are fixed on finishing second and continuing a year-on-year improvement under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
A draw today would lift them back above Leicester and into second, though they will hope to beat a West Brom side that have been repeatedly tonked at the Hawthorns since Sam Allardyce took over. But United have an occasional propensity for doziness against the weaker teams, so don’t rule out a shock.
West Brom need the greatest of escapes if they are to avoid relegation. At the start they were aiming for 17th place and another season in the Premier League. Now that they are 13 points off safety, they’ll probably be happy to avoid finishing bottom.
Kick off 2pm.