Manchester United have been involved in a power struggle with Real Madrid for the entire summer.
The two giants have done a fair bit of business with one another over the last decade and a half but this year, tension levels have reached an all time high.
United goalkeeper David De Gea is seemingly keen to return to his homeland while Madrid, openly courting him while refusing to meet his asking price, are seemingly set to be triumphant when Sergio Ramos, their own long serving defender, eventually signs a new deal in the wake of bids from Manchester.
With the future of Ramos set to be secured, the situation over De Gea has descended into a stake-out.
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United, resigned that he will move on regardless at the end of his contract next year, are looking to see out the transfer window with their star keeper still on board, unless their rivals come up with a suitable fee.
Under normal circumstances this would put the ball firmly in Los Merengues court, but the emotions of the player himself are having an impact.
Despite his heroics over the last couple of seasons, De Gea was dropped for United’s opening day victory over Spurs with his coach Louis Van Gaal claiming the player was not in the right mental state to play.
The argument was that the summer of speculation meant he was not showing the same signs of focus that made him one of the hottest properties in Europe last term.
This situation of course has been seen many times in high profile transfers sagas around Europe’s principle leagues.
The buying club and media unsettle the player to such an extent that his worth to his current employers is compromised, making them in theory, keener to resolve the situation and more susceptible to the bid when it finally arrives.
Real are masters in the art and now football circles are claiming that Van Gaal has fallen foul of the oldest trick in the book by electing not to field the 24 year old. The Dutch boss has indeed taken plenty of criticism in recent weeks from the likes of former United full back Rafael and Bulgarian legend Hristo Stoichkov.
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Van Gaal though, is not the type of character to let his critics affect him or respond to media pressure to reinstate a player and there are signs that his decision may in fact be a master stroke.
Firstly the Red Devils won their opening game and kept a clean sheet in the process. Granted they were not exactly convincing in overcoming Spurs but they got the required start to their campaign.
Van Gaal also opted to field new recruit Sergio Romero in goal and the Argentine put in a fairly solid display on his debut, in which he made a couple of crucial saves.
The move also puts the pressure on both De Gea and Madrid to come up with a resolution rather than the Old Trafford outfit. Legendary United stopper Peter Schmeichel this week expressed his anger at both parties for allowing a stand-off to develop and effectively gave his backing to his former club’s current manager.
The move also sends a message to the Spanish capital that United are happy to head into the new season with Romero between the sticks.
The clock is now ticking and if Madrid fail to meet the valuation before the window closes at the end of the month, Van Gaal will then have De Gea at his disposal again.
This will present him with the option of bringing the player back in when he will surely be keen to play to his best with a hope of later reviving the transfer, or keep him on the bench as a top class understudy.
Simultaneously the decision also benefits Romero by showing confidence in him and granting him an opportunity. The rest of the Manchester side’s first team squad are further removed from the pressurising uncertain effects of the transfer saga by isolating the cause of the problem.
Ultimately, as long as his team continue to obtain the desired results with Romero in goal, Van Gaal’s decision will be vindicated.
How the situation is likely to progress from here is still very unclear. The exact details of what United are demanding are vague and there has been little comment from De Gea himself.
It is possible that while United are holding out for a sizeable transfer fee, they would also be open to capturing a Madrid star in a more complicated deal.
The La Decima winners have claimed at least two attempts by Van Gaal to buy Gareth Bale and with the potential deal for Ramos now dead in the water, an approach for Arsenal target Karim Benzema is a more likely development.