David de Gea's consistency of errors makes Sergio Romero a safer option for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - It used to be Manchester United’s favourite slogan on social media. ‘Dave Saves’ tended to trend. ‘Dave Blunders’ does not rhyme but has become a regular theme during a two-year period that has looked less like a blip than a slump.

David de Gea handed Chelsea a place in the FA Cup final. He could have been at fault for their first and third goals. There was no doubt he was horribly culpable for Mason Mount’s strike.

It has started to feel the signature De Gea mistake, when a shot squirms through his hands. The former United goalkeeper Mark Bosnich talked about technical problems causing “a consistency of errors” over the last eight to 12 months. Others would date the malaise back to the 2018 World Cup.

Only Newcastle’s Martin Dubravka has been debited with more errors leading to goals in the Premier League over 24 months and it is worth remembering both some of De Gea’s mistakes have come in the FA Cup and the Champions League and Steven Bergwijn’s goal for Spurs, which prompted the watching Roy Keane to say he would not let the Spaniard back on the team bus, was somehow not classified as an error.

Yet it ranked in a compendium of errors. There were Arsenal and Barcelona and Chelsea last season. This year, he tamely pushed Ismaila Sarr’s shot into his net and cleared the ball into Dominic Calvert-Lewin, sending it cannoning into his goal.

When Bergwijn scored, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer repeated United’s years-long mantra that De Gea was still the best goalkeeper in the world. It is a moot point if it was ever true, but now it displayed an ignorance of Alisson and Ederson, Manuel Neuer and Marc Andre ter Stegen, Jan Oblak and others. The more immediate question is whether De Gea is even the best goalkeeper on United’s books.

There can be times when the naturally upbeat Solskjaer is reluctant to accept unpleasant truths but he said on Sunday: “David knows he should have saved the second goal.” There was an irony, perhaps, in his selection.

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Goalkeepers whose careers went downhill fast

Manchester United's David de Gea has made a string of high profile errors in the past two seasons having previously been regarded as one of, if not the best keeper in the world. His most recent clangers came in the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea. Nothing seems to be sticking to his gloves these days. Reuters

Joe Hart is the most obvious example in recent years of a keeper whose career has suddenly faltered. From England and Manchester City No 1 to being unable to get a game and subsequently released at Burnley. Quite why it has happened is somewhat of a mystery. He was England's best keeper since David Seaman, but like de Gea the errors became more frequent. Getty Images

Victor Valdes' trophy cabinet was brimming after more than 500 appearances for Barcelona. Then came two games in two years at Manchester United and a forgettable season at Middlesbrough and he quietly slipped away. AFP

Loris Karius was never regarded as one of Liverpool's greatest keepers before the 2018 Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid. And his two huge errors in that final mean he won't get another chance. He was shipped out on loan to Besiktas in Turkey and his reputation remains largely in tatters. Quite a fall for Liverpool's former No 1. Getty Images

Roberto Jimenez played for a host of clubs in Spain before a move to Premier League West Ham in 2019 where he was used as back-up to Lukasz Fabianski. When he finally had a chance it all went wrong with goals flying in from all angles - many of them his fault. He moved back to Spain - on loan to Alaves and subsequently conceded six against Celta Vigo. A career heading in the wrong direction. Getty Images

Mark Bosnich was signed by Manchester United as a successor to all-conquering keeper Peter Schmeichel in 1999 after impressing at Aston Villa. His professionalism was questioned by manager Alex Ferguson, while pundits lamented his poor kicking. He lasted just 23 matches and managed only a further 17 elsewhere as his career quickly fizzled out. Allsport / Getty Images

Stoke City's Jack Butland was the great hope of English football as far as goalkeepers were concerned as he was linked with a host of top clubs and made his international debut. Fast forward a few years and he's struggling near the bottom of the second tier and has come in for plenty of criticism. Action Images via Reuters

Richard Wright, left, appeared to have a huge career ahead of him. Having finished fifth in the Premier League with Ipswich Town in 2001 he was pushing to become England's No 1. A move to Arsenal to replace David Seaman was a disaster, a spell at Everton wasn't much better, and he only played more than 15 league matches in a season once in the final 13 seasons of his career. Sammy Dallal / The National

Scott Carson was a blossoming young keeper whose career peaked with England caps. A high-profile error against Croatia in 2007 marked the start of the decline, and while he enjoyed a couple more seasons in the Premier League and in Turkey, he then spent the rest of time in the second tier in England bar a loan move to Man City. Promised much, but didn't quite deliver. AP

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Sergio Romero often plays in the Cups and has a reputation as perhaps the finest reserve goalkeeper in England. In short, he is a safe pair of hands when De Gea has not been.

Solskjaer is unlikely to jettison him but a further mistake at Leicester on Sunday could cost United Champions League football. There is a case to promote Romero and demote the world’s best-paid goalkeeper.

Which is another concern. De Gea isn’t quite Alexis Sanchez with gloves but United again feel a prisoner of their inability to negotiate deals. They should be in a position of strength, with Dean Henderson described by Solskjaer as a future United No. 1 and the option of recalling the fast-improving youngster from Sheffield United for next season. But, whatever happens, they will be stuck with De Gea.

Jose Mourinho, who may feel the Spaniard’s struggles contributed to the poor results that led to his sacking, is scarcely an impartial observer but he made a valid point last September when he suggested De Gea’s lucrative new contract was an illusory coup for United.

“I don't see the pressure. Who is going to pay David these numbers?” he said. “One or two years ago, he had the world after him, in this moment the majority of the big doors were closed.” If there were few vacancies at the elite clubs, the reality is his form would deter many a suitor. De Gea feels unsellable.

The immediate issue is whether Romero should play now and the question that must be resolved relatively quickly is whether Henderson is installed as the first choice next season. But the broader issue is whether De Gea is in decline or whether his technique and confidence can be repaired.

At 29, he should be near his peak but the notion that goalkeepers are at their best in their early thirties can feel increasingly unreliable. There are some, such as Joe Hart, Iker Casillas and Pepe Reina, who emerge early but are going downhill before they reach 30.

De Gea is another who started young. His difficulties are no short-term affair, but his long-term future offers United a further conundrum.

Updated: July 20, 2020 03:03 PM

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