At first it appeared a good idea for Manchester United: two young goalkeepers trading off on starting duties while sharing the burden of responsibility at a big club. But United aren’t a heavy metal band; twin guitar attacks work, but not necessarily twin, duelling goalkeepers.
The problem that both goalkeepers have, despite Ander Lindegaard being a few years older than David de Gea, is that neither have anyone of greater experience to fall onto. It’s a case of the club having to develop one while offering the other enough game time to keep him satisfied. Both are good enough to play at the highest level, but is the current arrangement the best for both players?
There’s no doubt that de Gea is the greater talent of the two, a player who is more of a prospect at this stage but who could play out to be one of Europe’s leading keepers. Lindegaard, on the other hand, just looks to be a very good alternative, a backup and a seemingly safer pair of hands at this stage.
De Gea was always going to experience difficulties when arriving from Atletico Madrid—and no, it has nothing to do with ‘lesser’ quality in La Liga. The stage is bigger at Manchester United, as well as the weight of expectancy.
But in recent weeks, Lindegaard hasn’t looked to be the safe pair of hands the club need when relieving de Gea of his duties. He’s looked unsure of himself, lacking confidence to attack the ball and without any significant vocal presence.
Now, Lindegaard can be a good keeper to have when the other option is the safe bet, but that’s not the case. How much does Lindegaard really help in de Gea’s development? Is the player even interested in helping the other, let alone having the capabilities to do so? Both want to be starting goalkeepers, and that’s fine, but can both do so at Manchester United?
At some stage—and you’ve got to believe it will be in the near future—de Gea will become the undisputed No.1 at Manchester United. But there needs to be an extra push from within the camp to get him there, one that doesn’t totally lean on his talents and rate of development.
The introduction of a far more experienced goalkeeper, one who is coming to the end of his career and who doesn’t feel the need to square off with a younger internal opponent, could be exactly what the team needs.
Again, it allows de Gea to play the role of the first-choice goalkeeper, but there is always the safer option and the more assured player waiting in the wings.
What will it do for Manchester United’s defence? The current need to constantly rotate doesn’t do anyone any favours, whether it’s goalkeeper of the back four. But those problems are increased when two ‘rookie’ keepers are constantly swapping position from the bench to between the sticks.
Sometimes a club needs an experienced and calming figure to man the goal. Sometimes that added vocal presence behind the defence is enough to give everyone a lift when the team are leaking goals against hugely inferior opposition.
It’s not to say that the goalkeeper situation at Manchester United is bad or even damaging, but for the good of the team and specifically their big money signing, could the setup be a little more productive?
There have been a number of games this season where de Gea has looked to kick on from last season and really discover the confidence to handle the pressure. The most recent Manchester derby was another game which saw the Spaniard elevate his game and rise to the occasion.
But the player’s age means there will always be a blip at various stages down the road, something that no amount of talent can counter. The player doesn’t appear to have the mental and physical toughness of players like Manuel Neuer, so it’s very difficult to argue the positive effect an experienced figure in the team could have.
Adding a veteran goalkeeper could be the important move that unlocks de Gea’s talent and potential on a consistent basis and well ahead of schedule.