Manchester United have problems at both ends they have to fix

May 7, 2023

Same script, same scoreline and the same David de Gea. Nobody could pin Alexis Mac Allister’s penalty on the Manchester United goalkeeper but this latest clanger will be.

De Gea has dropped dollies leading to goals on at least four occasions this season. In the last four weeks, he has contributed to United’s ejection from the Europa League and his domestic form could ensure they stay in that competition next term.

At full-time, Victor Lindelof sheepishly clasped hands with De Gea. Lukasz Fabianski enveloped him sympathetically. De Gea stood the furthest away from the away end. Plenty who had remained were visibly apoplectic.

When the ball trickled through De Gea’s gloves, many attendants in the press box put their hands to their head. Some in disbelief, some out of sympathy. Some West Ham fans sighed after Said Benrahma had connected with the ball, lamenting its apparent harmlessness.

The London Stadium replayed the goal a couple of times on the big screens so De Gea had a grim premiere of his howler with a sold-out audience.

This was another inexcusable mistake in a season littered with them. Brentford, Everton, Sevilla and now West Ham. De Gea’s regression is so acute his performances in the run-in are reminiscent of four years ago. United promptly remunerated him back then.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw, the three defenders who surrounded Benrahma, practically dared him to shoot. The ball rolled at such a slow rate it would not have cut Daisies in a field.

De Gea is a goalkeeper who has metaphorically stood still in the last five years and his feet were awry for Benrahma’s shot. He resembled a tail-ender bamboozled by a slow delivery. All of De Gea’s teammates turned 180 degrees and stared at the centre circle.

It was not the only foot De Gea put wrong. He started both halves by passing to an opponent and his error was permission for West Ham to shoot on sight. Michail Antonio also had a goal chalked off for impeding De Gea at a corner. It is perverse United have held discussions with De Gea about a new contract.

Benrahma’s goal charged an apathetic crowd more stirred by another upcoming European semi-final against AZ Alkmaar on Thursday. Declan Rice, desperate to crown his West Ham career with silverware before an inevitable transfer, will have turned more heads with another eye-catching performance. For the second match running, Casemiro was schooled by a younger counterpart.