12 Oct What has ex-Man United keeper De Gea been doing back in Manchester?
De Gea spent 12 largely successful seasons at Old Trafford, winning the Premier League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup and Europa League in that time before leaving on a free over the summer after negotiations over a new contract extension fizzled out.
He is the reigning Premier League Golden Glove winner after finishing the 2022-23 season with more clean sheets than any of his top-flight contemporaries, and yet has found himself without a club since leaving United in early July.
De Gea departed as United’s seventh highest all-time appearance maker, playing 545 games in all competitions, but we are now well into the 2023-24 season and he remains a free agent.
The Spain international has returned to his old stomping ground in recent days, just as André Onana, his direct replacement as United’s No. 1, is in the midst of a poor start to life at Old Trafford.
Onana, who arrived from Champions League runners-up Inter Milan in the summer for £47.2 million, has already shipped 16 goals in his first 11 appearances and has made several high-profile errors during his early United career, leading many fans to start questioning manager Erik ten Hag’s seemingly unshakeable faith in the Cameroon international.
Purely by coincidence, De Gea has been out and about in Manchester this week. On Tuesday the 32-year-old was spotted at Leigh Sports Village, where he was watching the Red Devils’ women’s team take part in their very first Champions League game against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.
The following evening, De Gea met up with fellow Spaniard Sergio Reguilón for a bite to eat, and posted a photo on his Instagram story of himself with the full-back who is on loan at United from Tottenham Hotspur this season.
That said, nobody can accuse Reguilon of taking sides when it comes to Manchester United goalkeepers past and present, with the 26-year-old defender making a public show of his support for Onana after he made a critical handling error in last month’s 4-3 defeat at Bayern Munich.
Despite finding himself at a loose end professionally for the past few months, the summer wasn’t entirely uneventful for De Gea, who married long-term partner and Spanish pop star Edurne Garcia in a lavish ceremony on the island of Menorca in July, mere days before his United exit was made official.
De Gea had reportedly been close to a summer switch to the Saudi Pro League with Al Hilal, but a link-up with Neymar in Riyadh did not materialise. He was also with linked a succession of big European clubs such as Real Madrid, Bayern, PSG, Sevilla and Real Betis, who were all reported to have considered making a contract offer.
He has also made a point of sharing footage of his fitness regime on social media as if to demonstrate to any potential suitors that his goalkeeping skills are still honed and he is taking his physical conditioning seriously with or without having teammates to train alongside.
Who knows, with Onana struggling for form and still yet to fully win over many at United, perhaps a sensational Old Trafford comeback for De Gea isn’t quite as farfetched as it once seemed?