With the departure of Manchester United’s Spanish stopper to pastures new looking more likely by the day, Kevin Levingston takes a look at the backlash from United fans and questions whether or not there is really anything to be angry about…
Football has always been an emotional sport to follow. The difference between a good day, week or even year is often decided by whether or not that round leather object ends up in the right net and what number sits next to your team’s name on the scoreboard. Success is celebrated unreservedly and heroes made of the players that deliver such triumphs. Songs are sung, names are chanted, posters are hung and names printed on shirts. Players are held in fierce admiration and, for the most part, supported through thick and thin. David De Gea is one such player.
Arriving in Manchester some four years ago looking like his alleged six-foot-two frame was nothing but wishful thinking, the Spaniard quickly captured the interest of Manchester United fans. For all of his gangly-legged, flappy-armed unassuming demeanour there was a hint of genius about the boy. For every misjudged cross and shirked physical contest there was an almost impossible shot saved and a flash of the iron will that seemed unbecoming of a player so affable at first glance.
After a shaky first few months it was upon this iron will that De Gea would build his church, cheered through every moment by the United fans; themselves revelling in their player proving his critics wrong. Old Trafford had long been a haven of support for players being castigated in the media and in other quarters and it was no different here. Like Cantona and Beckham before him, De Gea would be embraced by the Old Trafford faithful in tough times and have his successes celebrated with equal fervour. Four years into his United career, things appear to have changed for the Spaniard. Why? It seems he wants to leave.
De Gea’s mooted move to Real Madrid has been whispered about for some time but in recent weeks the chatter has become deafening. As the ‘keeper has progressed through his best season in a United shirt the elephant in the room has been his as-yet-unsigned new contract. With just over a year remaining on his original deal, United are in an unenviable position. Should Real Madrid’s long distance cooing whispers ever become full on come-to-bed eyes then United have a choice of either selling at a massive loss or allow him to leave next year on a free transfer.
United fans are totally and completely up in arms. De Gea is being called every name under the sun by many, whilst many others stew away semi-silently.
How dare he go to Madrid? He should show some loyalty! The very least he could do is sign a new contract so we could get a higher fee! He owes us that much at least! I suppose he’s just not the guy we thought he was. Tarnished his legacy there. Madrid is a step down. Good riddance etc.
Suffice to say people are not happy. Unfortunately, many seem to have lost the run of themselves in the process. It’s never a good thing to see one of your best players depart for pastures new but for many it’s a simple case of finding it easier to be furious than sad.
The idea of loyalty in modern football is something of a utopian one and it has been rather falsely applied here. Yes, the fans supported the keeper through a shaky first season at the club but he has been superb in the three intervening seasons. It would be stretching the truth substantially to suggest he owes us anything at this point. The only thing the Spaniard actually owes the club is to see out the remaining year of his contract; something you’d imagine he would do without protest, though I doubt many would enjoy seeing him leave for free a year from now. Another prevalent argument is the idea that De Gea should sign a contract so the club might extract a greater transfer fee for his services. From the player’s point of view, why should he jeopardise his chance at joining Madrid for United’s sake? With Iker Casillas and Keylor Navas, Madrid are hardly crying out for a new stopper. If anything it would be foolish on De Gea’s part to sign an extension as the United may well flat out refuse to sell once the new deal is signed, even if Madrid were willing to pay an exorbitant fee.
How many stopped to ponder how Robin van Persie had sold Arsenal short when he left for Old Trafford with one year remaining on his contract? A more accurate target for questioning is United themselves, who really should have sold the player last summer had he not agreed to a new contract. By allowing things to drag on as long as they have, the club is now in a vulnerable position for which they only have themselves to blame.
Mostly the position of faux-righteous anger on this subject is to dehumanize the situation. In the commercial world of modern football it’s easy to forget that players are more than commodities. There is no doubt that De Gea has enjoyed his time at United. His motivation to return to Spain is in no way meant to be a slight to United; merely a desire to return to his homeland, where his friends, family and partner live. The fact that he will in all likelihood earn less at Real Madrid than he could at United tells its own story. It’s a smart career move too. After four years abroad, young professional moves back home to the biggest company in his field. It makes sense.
It’s time to put to one side all the perceived slights and injustices and accept that for the most part people are just genuinely gutted to see De Gea leave. The United fans kept the faith in him during a shaky first few months and were repaid in full by game changing performances that bordered on the majestic in the seasons that followed.
It would have been great to see him go on to achieve great things at Old Trafford and secure legend status in the years to come, but that’s how football goes sometimes. Putting aside the fact that it still might happen, let’s not lose ourselves to silly levels of anger if he does leave. United will recover from his departure and he’s got just as much a right to choose his career path as anyone.