Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has reminded David de Gea that he has to fight for his place in the Manchester United team after his errors in the 3-3 draw with Everton.
De Gea has been Solskjaer’s go to goalkeeper this season despite the return of England’s Dean Henderson. But his performance at Old Trafford against the Toffees has been criticised and there have been calls for the Spaniard to be dropped.
The 30-year-old fumbled the ball into the path of Abdoulaye Doucoure for Everton’s first and was laboured coming from his line as Dominic Calvert-Lewin poked in a 95th-minute equaliser.
“Every player has to earn the right to earn his place, of course,” Solskjaer said. “We’re a squad with competition and that applies to absolutely every single one in the team – and that is the same for every single one of us.”
United have the worst defensive record in the Premier League top 10. De Gea has conceded 27 goals in 21 games, with eight clean sheets.
It’s not the first time this season that De Gea has been criticised.
Solskjaer was forced to defend his No.1 after Paul Scholes, among others hit out at the player, after the 3-2 defeat to RB Leipzig in December.
Former United midfielder Scholes called his attempt at saving Leipzig’s third goal “criminal”, just days before De Gea was named on the 55-man shortlist for the 2020 FIFA FIFPRO World 11 team.
“I think David’s a top goalkeeper,” Solskjaer said. “Of course I do and rightly so he’s on lists of being the best goalkeeper in Europe.
“For me, he’s handled criticism before, he’s handled setbacks before and he’s a boy, or a man, that we really rely on.
“Hopefully he’s not affected by criticism and I don’t think he will be because every goal that a goalkeeper concedes you’d be disappointed with.”
Henderson will get a chance to impress on Tuesday when United face West Ham in the FA Cup. The 23-year-old has played in all of United’s domestic cup games this season and it gives Solskjaer the perfect opportunity to take De Gea out of the limelight.
Henderson returned to United in the summer and signed a five-year contract but has been restricted to 225 minutes of playing time in the league.
He was expected to make a bold claim for the No.1 jersey this season, but Solskjaer has stuck with De Gea in the Premier League.
Former United captain Gary Neville was critical of De Gea’s after he failing to close down Calvert-Lewin against Everton.
“David de Gea, there, at the end. He doesn’t even come in line with the ball,” Neville told Sky Sports.
“I think you want the goalkeeper to come, as Jamie [Redknapp] said there, and eat the striker. You just want your goalkeeper to come out there and absolutely take him out. Goalkeepers are so quick off their line nowadays.
“It wasn’t a great night for the goalkeeper, it wasn’t a great night for the centre-backs either and we’ve known from the start Manchester United needed a stronger centre-back pairing. That hasn’t changed. No point going on about it tonight. It’s cost them.”