Man Utd fans must accept the risk with Andre Onana if they expect the reward

Ian Watson
Reported Man Utd target Andre Onana celebrates in front of the Inter fans.
Man Utd newbie Andre Onana celebrates in front of the Inter fans.

Andre Onana will give Man Utd a new dimension – but he’ll definitely  f*** up along the way. The Red Devils must accept that his qualities will cost the odd goal and shredded nerves…

Manchester United, as is customary these days, shambled their way through the process but they got there in the end. Erik ten Hag now has a fit-for-purpose goalkeeper.

That is not to denigrate David De Gea. The Spaniard was a loyal servant for 12 years, during which time he was their very best in four separate seasons. He leaves Old Trafford this summer with his legacy secure amid a botched succession plan.

He was cut loose, eventually, because Ten Hag needs a keeper as comfortable playing as the first line of attack as much as the last line of defence. In Onana, the manager knows from their time together at Ajax that he’s now got one.

OPINION: Man Utd are putting all their eggs in Ten Hag’s Dutch picnic basket with Mount and Onana

It’s an exciting step for United. Ten Hag insists on playing out from the back but the Red Devils were handicapped in his first season by a goalkeeper who allowed the game to pass him by. A large part of De Gea’s appeal in 2011 was how comfortable he appeared on the ball; a dozen years later, that strength has become a weakness.

The contrast in possession between De Gea and Onana will be stark. It will be a huge novelty to see a United goalkeeper put his foot on the ball to invite a press rather than go to great lengths – often as far as the opposition’s centre-back –  to avoid one.

No longer will United’s opponents see the Red Devils as ripe for picking off with the merest of presses. Onana’s passing range and willingness to offer all manner of wild and crazy angles of support will bring a whole new dimension to United’s attacking game, enabling them to play through lines, no longer leaving them so reliant on counter-attacking.

Reported Chelsea target Andre Onana holds onto the ball during Inter Milan's Champions League match

It’ll be great fun to watch. For United fans and, occasionally, the opposition. Because Onana will f*** up. And when he does, his high-risk, high-reward style makes it inevitable that it will be hilarious.

As Onana finds his feet and his team-mates get accustomed to playing in front of a gloveman who fancies himself as a playmaker, it could be a rocky ride. Ten Hag will be patient. United fans must follow his lead.

Onana won’t worry and it’s unlikely to be a huge problem among Stretford End-ers, even if sales of heartburn medication are set to skyrocket through the new keeper’s adjustment period. The last time there was a rush on Rennie in Greater Manchester was probably when the security of City’s goal was left to a hologram of Claudio Bravo.

Then, when Pep Guardiola replaced England’s No.1 Joe Hart for similar reasons De Gea has been released, Bravo struggled with the more traditional duties associated with being a goalkeeper. Primarily, keeping the ball out of the back of the net.

Guardiola sought a better balance at the end of his first season and he found it in Ederson, another playmaker in mitts. But the Brazilian is far from a flawless goalkeeper. In six seasons at City, he’s averaged a deficit of 0.7 on his xGA. Last season, on the way to the Treble, Ederson conceded 4.8 goals more than the data suggests he should have. His save percentage was among the worst in the Premier League; he’s rash in one-on-one situations; but for Pep, he’s perfect.

Onana is likely to be viewed similarly by Ten Hag. The Cameroonian will bring chaos as well as his obvious quality. United fans must accept that the upgrade will come at the occasional cost.

Read next: Man Utd goalkeepers ranked: De Gea in top three behind Champions League winners…