Two pundits reckon Erik ten Hag could take a leaf out of Pep Guardiola’s book and axe a pair of Man Utd stars who no longer fit.
Among the early major decisions made by Pep Guardiola at Man City was determining Joe Hart wasn’t for him.
Hart was a key figure in the City dressing room and was England’s No 1 at the time. He’d been between the sticks for two title-winning sides, though Guardiola wanted a goalkeeper who was as good with his feet as he was with his hands.
Claudio Bravo quickly took the reins, though the veteran Chilean’s best days were clearly behind him. A year later, Ederson was signed and the rest is history.
Erik ten Hag is facing a similar dilemma over at Old Trafford involving David de Gea.
The Spaniard is imperious with the gloves, though remains painfully limited with his feet. De Gea is out of contract at season’s end and speculation had begun to grow Man Utd could sever ties and sign a more technically gifted replacement.
Another who’s struggled to mesh with Ten Hag’s style is England regular, Harry Maguire.
Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane are Ten Hag’s preferred centre-back pairing. Even when Martinez has missed out on Maguire’s customary left side, Ten Hag has increasingly turned to left-back Luke Shaw to plug the gap in 2023.
Now, speaking to BT Sport, Man Utd legend Rio Ferdinand and former Spurs midfielder, Jermaine Jenas, suggested Ten Hag could part ways with De Gea and Maguire at season’s end.
Ferdinand insisted De Gea is a player he’d trust if he was playing for United right now, though admitted Ten Hag won’t hesitate to make a change if believing it’s for the good of the team.
De Gea and Maguire yesterday’s men at Man Utd?
“I want to turn around and know where my goalkeeper is,” said Ferdinand (via the MEN). “I don’t want any grey areas with that and I want to be able to trust him.
“There’s a situation in the game, he’s [De Gea] not involved all the time, but when a moment comes to make a big save that can define momentum in the game or result, I want him there.
“This guy has done that throughout his career. Yes he’s had issues with his feet with the way the game has evolved in terms of goalkeepers being expected to play more now, but I’m the old-fashioned way that I want them to save the ball and keep it out of the net.
“They’re [De Gea and Maguire] being asked to play like this and if you can’t play like this, the manager will find people that can do that.”
Former Tottenham midfielder Jenas added: “He’s [De Gea] in a very similar situation to what Joe Hart was in at Man City.
“Everybody [said] at the time – they’re just on the back of winning league titles – ‘Joe Hart’s a top goalkeeper’, and Pep [Guardiola] went ‘he can’t do what I want him to do, I respect him but he can’t do what I want him to do’.
“By the looks of what Ten Hag is doing he could be in a similar scenario.”
Maguire might go, but De Gea won’t
Maguire has reportedly been put up for sale, per the Manchester Evening News, talkSPORT and MailPlus. However, anyone hoping to see De Gea moved on is in for a shock.
ESPN recently reported De Gea is close to penning fresh terms, with many aspects of a new deal already ‘finalised’.
In a TEAMtalk exclusive, we learned Ten Hag is the driving force behind De Gea’s imminent new deal and the Dutchman’s voice has been heard loud and clear by the United board.
As such, Ten Hag may yet show a ruthless streak this summer, though it’s likely to be only Maguire who’ll make way from the pair in question.