Manchester United’s 0-0 FA Cup draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers was a net negative in many ways. They mustered zero shots on target from 12 total efforts and were ultimately forced into a replay, adding another fixture to an already clogged month that now has zero free midweeks.
However, there may be some positives to take from the match that otherwise left Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with another disappointing result.
Goalkeeper Sergio Romero, standing in for David De Gea as Cup netminder, played excellently, making a number of big saves to keep the game scoreless. The standout highlight was an absolute stunner on Matthew Doherty early in the match where he poked his right hand out to stop a point-blank hit.
Incredible save by Sergio Romero 🧤
— The Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) January 4, 2020
Couple Romero’s performance in Cup play with David de Gea’s spotty showings this season, and suddenly the Manchester United goalkeeping job appears up for grabs.
De Gea, once the most dominant goalkeeper in the Premier League, has been off his best for some time now. He showed signs of decline in the 2018 World Cup as Spain was dumped in the Round of 16 by hosts Russia, and that has continued into the last two Premier League seasons. He has committed six errors leading directly to a goal over the last two seasons, the most in the English top flight. His most recent howler came against bottom-dwellers Watford as a ball slipped right through his hands in what would ultimately result in an embarrassing 2-0 defeat.
And it’s not just the errors that have become an issue. De Gea’s shot-stopping in general has seriously declined. Per Statsbomb, de Gea is underperforming his expected goals allowed this season by about 0.2 xG per 90, which doesn’t sound like much, but adds up to a significant 7.6 extra goals conceded over the course of the year.
Which #PremierLeague GKs overperform on-target xG?
Fabiański, Alisson, Schmeichel, Heaton on 🔥
De Gea still on bad streak, Kepa underperforms xG for 3rd season in a row 👀
At the bottom: Angus Gunn, the poor Soton GK on the receiving end of those nine #LCFC goals
— José C. Pérez (@jcperez_) January 6, 2020
He also has conceded the most direct free-kicks in Premier League play since the 2011/12 season, although that has just as much to do with his comparatively large sample size over that timespan as his struggles against set-pieces.
While Manchester United has pressing issues up and down the pitch (especially up front where they also happen to be underperforming their expected goals) would a switch between the sticks provide the Red Devils with some much-needed consistency at the back? At the very least it may give de Gea a breather; he’d be far from the first starting goalkeeper boosted by a spell on the bench.