David De Gea heroics back up brutal honesty to illustrate Manchester United’s demise

Manchester United’s goalkeeper David de Gea gestures

David de Gea was doing wonders for his employers’ image again. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believed in the magic, the mystique of Manchester United. De Gea can testify to the misery of Manchester United. His former manager believed in the brand. The goalkeeper has brought a brutal realism to his media duties. “I feel embarrassed sometimes, I feel… it’s difficult to say, but I feel horrible on the pitch,” he said. Which was one way of previewing United against Chelsea, a game that was a Champions League final 14 years ago and an FA Cup final four years ago.

Perhaps his team-mates didn’t tune in to see De Gea’s latest attempt to rouse spirits. If, at the other end of the East Lancs Road, Jurgen Klopp is a master of engendering optimism, maybe De Gea’s skills lie instead in spreading pessimism. United’s first, and last, point against top-four opponents under Ralf Rangnick came courtesy of the Spaniard’s goalkeeping prowess, rather more than his skills as a motivator. It owed much to the excellence of Cristiano Ronaldo and him, two with memories of altogether happier days, in either penalty box as United rode their luck to draw.

They may be exempted from the criticism that virtually everyone else at Old Trafford merits, from their team-mates to the powerbrokers who contrived to compile the most expensive squad in football history only for signings amounting to almost half a billion pounds to be unavailable as Ralf Rangnick named a bench with four kids, two goalkeepers, two injury-hit defenders and an ageing Juan Mata. This was strength in depth, Manchester United style, but a fine goalkeeper can compensate for a multitude of other failings.

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