Manchester United are running the rule over several options to replace David De Gea in the long term but expect him to start next season as No 1. The United goalkeeper is poised to sign a deal on reduced terms from his £375,000-a-week contract which runs out in June.
Both sides are confident an agreement will be reached on what will probably be a three-year contract with Erik ten Hag backing his goalkeeper publicly once again after his West Ham blunder. But United scouts are running the rule over several options to come in on an equal footing to De Gea next season with a view to a smooth transition.
Brentford’s David Raya, Porto’s Diogo Costa and Feyenoord goalkeeper and Netherlands No 2 Justin Bijlow have all been floated as possible successors. Ten Hag is keen on AC Milan’s France international Mike Maignan but United are thought unlikely to be able to prise him away from Italy this summer.
Uncertainty over transfer plans stemming from the possible change of ownership at the club are hampering the search for replacements with a striker and midfielder deemed higher on the list of priorities. And while fingers continue to be pointed at De Gea, Ten Hag is giving the 32-year-old Spaniard his public backing.
The United manager made the point in the aftermath of Sunday’s defeat to West Ham that the club would not be in the position they are this season had it not been for De Gea. “I have no concerns,” said Ten Hag. “We want him to stay and we want him to extend his contract. It happens and as a team you have to deal with hit, show resilience and bounce back.”
De Gea’s backers – and he still has support at the club – claim fourth spot in the league with an FA Cup final is due in large part to he Spaniard’s good season between the posts. But after the latest blunder from the United No 1, the questions on the other side of the balance sheet are also being looked at.
He remains a fine shot-stopper but is unconvincing with the ball at his feet and would have to improve in that area if he is to fit in to Ten Hag’s medium-term plans.
And the argument that United might be not looking nervously over their shoulder at Liverpool’s charge and could be shooting for a Europa League final place as well if not for mistakes from their gloveman in the quarter-final second leg in Seville has gained some traction around Old Trafford.
De Gea is keen to extend his stay at the club although he accepts it will be on a reduced salary with £200,000 a week being offered by the club. In some ways the Spaniard is in a win-win situation with uncertainty over the future ownership hampering plans over the search for a successor.
If United hold on to fourth spot as seems likely – they can extend their lead over fifth-placed Liverpool to four points with three games to go if they win their game in hand – Ten Hag’s faith will have been vindicated. But even if they fail to hold on, United look set to settle for De Gea to start the season with money spent elsewhere with someone to score at the other end the No 1 priority.