Home » “A big call”: Why Andre Onana worries footballing dinosaurs

“A big call”: Why Andre Onana worries footballing dinosaurs

by Darragh Fox

Andre Onana possesses a style which will inevitably divide.

A quintessential modern goalkeeper, Manchester United’s new goalkeeper thrives as much with the ball as without. He operates as the last line of defence as an aggressive sweeper, and the first line of attack as a confident and capable distributor.

Onana will undoubtedly provide a stark contrast to the more timid performances of the recently departed David De Gea.

While this proactive style of keeping may be refreshing to many fans, and an essential to his manager, it’s one which leaves a goalkeeper vulnerable to criticism. By consistently taking risks with the ball, the probability of a fatal error occurring increases exponentially.

This is evidently a risk worth taking according to the actions of football’s top managers who, consistently, deploy a goalkeeper who operates in this manner. The positives derived from this choice include the ability to sustain attacks and comfortably navigate the counter-press.

Onana’s performance in the Champions League final is the perfect illustration of this.

Despite ultimately losing the match, Inter Milan were more than a match for a much more talented Manchester City side, who were fortunate to win 1-0. At the heart of this display was Onana who Pep Guardiola described as “exceptional”, given the goalkeeper could not be pressed “properly.” His skillset style enabled Inter to consistently evade City’s swarm of pressers and to build meaningful attacks from the back. It was a world-class performance on club football’s biggest stage.

The counter-argument to such a player are the inevitable mistakes. Richard Keys has encapsulated that argument with this bold prediction:

“[Onana] will cost United as many points in a season as De Gea used to save.”

Keys goes on to determine United’s goalkeeper switch is a “big call” by ten Hag.

While this may be true, given the price involved in Onana’s acquisition and the fact he is untested in English football, there is little risk of United’s new goalkeeper making more any more mistakes than his predecessor.

De Gea produced a catalogue of errors towards the end of last season, with clangers against West Ham, Sevilla and Manchester City in the Premier League, Europa League and FA Cup final turning a potentially excellent season into merely a good one.

Indeed, these mistakes are precisely what led ten Hag to conclude De Gea was no longer a viable number one in his system, with efforts intensifying to land Onana thereafter.

Keys is, therefore, merely fulfilling his usual modus operandi.

He has latched onto a reasonable concern – Onana’s suitability to Premier League football at a big club – and conflated it with a vapid and erroneous opinion – Onana will make more mistakes than De Gea ‘ostensibly’ saves. The final product is reactionary clickbait which sounds great on initial glance, but falls flat once examined with any level of scrutiny. The Keys special.

Thankfully Erik ten Hag does not operate with such thoughtlessness.

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