David De Gea has become the subject of increasing interest from Real Madrid who have identified the 24-year-old as the heir to Iker Casillas’ long-standing throne as number one goalkeeper.
Signed from city rivals Atletico Madrid in 2011 for £18.9 million, De Gea has developed into one of the best goalkeepers in Europe and is arguably the reason why Manchester United have a strong chance of finishing in the top four. A number of outstanding saves throughout the season has allowed Louis Van Gaal’s side to pick up crucial points in their pursuit of returning to the Champions League, but there is belief that De Gea sees his long-term future at the Santiago Bernabau.
The arrival of former Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes has further fuelled speculation that United’s current number one may be tempted to move back to his native country, with a potential swap deal involving Gareth Bale suggesting that De Gea may be leaving Old Trafford.
Although he may need convincing that his future is best served at United, keeping De Gea at the club should be Van Gaal’s priority for the rest of his career. The young Spaniard may have struggled in his first season at United, but fans have seen him fulfil his true potential and develop into one of the best goalkeepers around. United may have shown relative acceptance in the past to sell their best players when it became clear they wanted to move onto pastures new, but keeping De Gea will undoubtedly aid United’s devotion to attract the best players in the world to the club. At only 24, there is every chance that De Gea could develop even further, with goalkeepers said to be at their peak around their 30s; it is a frightening thought that a goalkeeper who already has every quality needed to succeed at the very top has several years ahead of him to become even better.
United are far from the finished article in defence, where a lack of experience and leadership has resulted in a number of uncharacteristic errors this season. De Gea cannot be relied on to save the team in every game, but there appears to be an element of understanding developing across the backline in recent weeks. Van Gaal may need to strengthen United’s defence in the January transfer window or during the summer, with Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels strongly linked with a move, but losing a goalkeeper who is growing in command and can trust the defenders in front of him would create a problem. While Valdes is an excellent addition to the squad, he will need time to form an understanding with the defenders; this may not be an issue if De Gea leaves at the end of the season, but United are not in any position to lose their number one goalkeeper this month.