Man United boss Jose Mourinho hopes Paul Pogba ‘understands why’ he was a star at the World Cup


Manchester United fans won’t thank me for posing this question, but is it realistically time for David De Gea to consider leaving Old Trafford?

The constant wondering during recent summers. The never-ending question; will he or won’t he join Real Madrid? It’s all become a bit tiresome for Red Devils supporters.

But consider this. Who is more exhausted: them, of the constant transfer speculation, or De Gea, who has been a constant saviour for his side in recent campaigns, relied upon far too often by a team that still considers itself one of, if not the, biggest club in the world?

It is high time United boss Jose Mourinho came up with a solution for the conundrum in front of him. Despite hauling in two trophies in his two years in charge at Old Trafford, the chances of more following are scant.

That is especially true if De Gea, in the final year of his contract, finally decides he’s had enough of putting out fires in front of him and leaves next summer.

Football is cyclical and of course not any one team can dominate year after year.

And United’s current malaise is hardly perpetual. Yes, this is the longest period they have gone without winning a league title since the 26-year drought they endured from 1967 to 1993.

But five years isn’t quite the 28 hated rivals Liverpool are still enduring to win an elusive 19th English domestic crown. Nor is it the 44 years between Manchester neighbours City’s second and third league successes.

De Gea is a superb goalkeeper. There is no longer any debate as to who holds the title of best in the world in their hands.

De Gea will go down as one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s finest signings.

Even considering Manuel Neuer’s recent lengthy injury lay-off, De Gea’s meteoric rise in the last few years and the German’s ever so slight decline has opened a clear chasm in class between the two custodians.

And while, statistically, Neuer’s compatriot and Barcelona No1 Marc-Andre ter Stegen may lead the way in Europe this season, he plays behind a far superior defence at the Camp Nou, who ultimately give their stopper far less to do than United’s unconvincing defence hand De Gea week in, week out.

The Spaniard’s magnificence has seen him collect United’s Player of the Year accolade four times in the past five seasons. And while that is testament to De Gea’s continuing and ever-improving brilliance in between the sticks, it should also raise alarm bells among United fans.

That their club, one that prides itself on traditions steeped in swashbuckling, scintillating and sublime attacking football, is currently being propped up by a man shining at the wrong end of the pitch.

Despite their woes, United remain one of the biggest attractions in club football for elite players. With revenues and clever marketing exposure keeping them at the forefront of the modern game – at least off the pitch.

On it, they have strayed away from the values and expectations that great entertainers Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson built, honed and perfected.

Since Ferguson retired, David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho have championed turgid, languid, uninspiring and pragmatic football that betrays everything the club stands for. The famed substance and style has taken a back seat.

Just think how much worse it could have been had it not been for De Gea. It’s almost certain the FA Cup triumph Van Gaal bequeathed to the club as a parting gift in 2015/16 and a first-ever Europa League success in Mourinho’s debut a year later would not have been obtained.

Even the dismal seventh-place finish in the disastrous sole season under Moyes could feasibly have been surpassed.

United have possessed great goalkeepers throughout history. Harry Gregg, Gary Bailey, Peter Schmeichel and Edwin van der Sar spring to mind. All four were magnificent and played significant roles in United’s success and rise to prominence.

But they also had team-mates of true substance and worth who were equally as valuable. Currently it’s hard to argue against De Gea being the only jewel in United’s crown – with celebrated stars Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez failing to live up to their exalted reputations last season.

A lesser man might already have moved on – particularly to Madrid, where he has close links to both city and country.

De Gea was part of the United side that last won the Premier League title in 2012/13.

De Gea was part of the United side that last won the Premier League title in 2012/13.

Surely home has been tugging at his heartstrings in the seven years he has been away. How he must yearn for the sweet tune of silverware, secured in abundance by Los Blancos during the time he has been acting as a one-man band in Manchester.

Three successive Champions League trophies have been swept up, as well as two La Liga crowns and one Copa del Rey title.

Even former club Atletico have appeared in two of the last five Champions League finals – while Los Rojiblancos even broke the Real-Barca duopoly on the league title and won the Copa del Rey since De Gea departed in 2011.

How much longer can De Gea realistically be expected to stay at a club that professes to be one of the world’s biggest, yet right now are a small fish in a big pond being plundered by City?

In the wider waters of Europe, Real, Barca, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus are all teams you would class as a level above this United.

Back home, meanwhile, United fans fume at the rise of Liverpool. They will have rejoiced at their Champions League final defeat to Real. But secretly, most will be jealous of the scintillating brand of football implemented by Jurgen Klopp at Anfield.

De Gea is 27 and has a year remaining on his Red Devils deal. After a difficult beginning in England, where he struggled to come to terms with his £18.9 million price tag and a physicality alien to him in Spain, as well as rumoured early homesickness, De Gea developed quickly.

He beefed up under United’s goalkeeping coaches and would have learned a lot from illustrious team-mates and his legendary manager. He soon began to display the talent Ferguson undoubtedly saw in the scrawny teenager at Atletico.

De Gea left Spain seven years ago.

De Gea left Spain seven years ago.

He’s proven to be one of the Scots’ most sublime signings, but for how much longer should he have to plug the holes opened up by a porous United defence, or come to the rescue of a stunted, lacklustre attack?

As the popular chant that rings out around Old Trafford and away grounds up and down the country goes, ‘Dave Saves’. United are probably safe from Madrid taking their prized asset for another season.

But unless things change dramatically in 2018/19 and Mourinho can rekindle both his own flame and that of United’s past, it would be cruel for even United fans to expect De Gea not to want to hand himself something better.

It is time for Mourinho and United to reward his magnificence with medals.

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