Ed Woodward has a lot on his plate at the moment. The Manchester United vice-chairman is currently negotiating a strangely quiet January transfer window while conducting a ‘thorough recruitment process’ to find a new manager. Throw into the mix the obvious flaws in the club’s structure which leave Woodward short of expertise and a helping hand, plus the all-important commercial commitments, and it quickly becomes clear that the former accountant has his hands full.
So it is little wonder that members of the squad are being made to sit tight over contract negotiations. United’s policy of adding a year’s option in their favour to almost every individual player deal can come in handy when Woodward wants to buy a little more time, but those clauses were already triggered 12 months ago in the cases of Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and Ashley Young.
The same option was taken up on David De Gea‘s contract at the end of last year, but the future of the Spain goalkeeper should be a greater priority than any other renewal currently under consideration. If De Gea’s deal wasn’t at the top of Woodward’s to-do list prior to the weekend, it surely must be now.
Against Tottenham at Wembley, De Gea reminded us all of his value to Manchester United and his claim to the title of the game’s greatest goalkeeper. There are plenty of gloved hands making a grab for that particular crown but few, certainly among the newest contenders, can match his sustained consistency and his all-round flawlessness. You could drop De Gea in behind any defence in the world and he would continue to perform the same miracles he has been wowing United fans with since he grew into the gloves at Old Trafford, just in time to stop the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era becoming even more grim.
Surely even Woodward couldn’t become complacent to De Gea’s brilliance? It is understandable for the United board to be reluctant to sanction contracts for players before appointing a manager who will decide whether those individuals are any use to them. Woodward got burned by Jose Mourinho and Marouane Fellaini in the summer, while Unai Emery appears to be paying for Arsenal’s surrender to Mesut Ozil’s demands last winter. But no manager – whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or any other man anywhere down Woodward’s list – would arrive at Old Trafford and decide De Gea isn’t for them.
— Joseph Owino (@JosephOwino) January 13, 2019
This certainly does not appear to be Woodward’s toughest negotiation, nor is it likely to take up much of his precious time. Reports suggest De Gea, who has won four out of the last five Player of the Year awards at United, is looking for a raise of around £100,000 a week to bump his salary up to around £300,000 a week plus bonuses, which behind the current United defence would presumably be hard-earned. That would put him on similar terms to Paul Pogba and still below the salary band in which Alexis Sanchez sits. Leaving aside for a moment the obscene figures involved, that arrangement would reflect only modestly his status within the playing squad.
Like any of his team-mates not named Marouane Fellaini, De Gea is reportedly feeling more optimistic for the future with United, and Woodward should be seizing this opportunity. Despite his brilliance, the 28-year-old has won only one Premier League title and despite the resurgence under Solskjaer, it seems likely that next season might be the third in six that his talents will not be given the Champions League stage. With only Europa League, FA Cup and League Cup medals to add to the league title five-and-a-half years ago, most players in De Gea’s class would have gone glory-hunting some time ago.
Of course, there was the time De Gea came within an administrative cock-up of joining Real Madrid. Four-and-a-half years ago, when he was offered the chance to return to his home city, closer to his partner, the Spaniard chose to take it. Few United fans begrudged him the move then and even fewer would have done anything other than pat him on the back and thank him for his service had Real come back with greater intent last summer. Despite his disappointment at the turn of events in 2015, De Gea never sulked or kicked up a fuss. He simply returned to his post and defended it better than ever. As a consolation prize, he was given the deal that is currently in need of renewal.
De Gea is understood to be as settled in Manchester as he ever has been, especially now his partner has followed him to England around seven years after he made the move from Atletico Madrid. Woodward really should fight the temptation to use De Gea’s contentment as an excuse to save a few quid between now and the point the club would be obliged to come to an agreement. The 30-plus factor barely applies to goalkeepers in contract negotiations so if De Gea is happy, and his demands are as fair as they are reported to be, then just pay that man his money.