Erik ten Hag was happy to keep De Gea as first choice keeper at United but changed his mind.
Manchester United may not have signed André Onana this summer as Erik ten Hag was initially happy to let David de Gea “do one last dance.”
This is according to The Athletic, who have reported that the priority was to sign a midfielder and striker, having originally agreed terms with the Spaniard to stay before the offer was withdrawn.
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Talks on a new contract for De Gea, lasting several months, had finally reached an agreement. The 32-year-old went off for his holidays telling friends he would return to Carrington once back in England.
Ten Hag ideally wanted a goalkeeper suited to his style, but given the need for a new striker and midfielder, he had accepted during the spring that United’s summer budget, limited to around £100 million net, would be channeled elsewhere.
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At that stage, De Gea had shown some improvement in passing out from the back and was on course to win the Premier League Golden Glove for most clean sheets. Ten Hag accepted he could do “one last dance” with De Gea, as an insider put it.
But after the FA Cup final, where De Gea conceded from two long-range Ilkay Gundogan shots and had to kick deep to avoid Manchester City’s press, Ten Hag decided he could wait no longer to sign a No 1 fitting his strategy.
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The doubt that had nagged in the 3-0 defeat at Sevilla and again after the 1-0 loss at West Ham — occasions when De Gea mistakes cost his side — became impossible to ignore.
And so, in the days before the Champions League final between City and Inter Milan, Ten Hag started asking people about the availability of the goalkeeper he had worked with at Ajax.
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Ten Hag and Onana shared four and a half years together in the Netherlands, winning three Eredivisie titles and reaching the Champions League semi-final in 2019. At the end of their time together he called Onana a “masterful goalkeeper”.
Ten Hag was therefore not surprised by Onana’s display against City in Istanbul, a performance that reinforced the United manager’s decision to pursue a reunion with the 27-year-old.
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This was the backdrop to United changing their contract offer to De Gea. Before the FA Cup final, De Gea gave several people the impression he had gone as far as signing his part of the document. Whether this was his interpretation or that of others, the clear sentiment spread that De Gea staying was a done deal.
United insisted no documents were signed by either party and that a formal proposal was never made.
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Nevertheless, what is certain is that after the FA Cup final United withdrew an outline proposal that had De Gea’s blessing and resubmitted one for less money and shorter length, something De Gea outrightly rejected.
On the morning of July 8, a week after getting married, De Gea let United know that he was going to announce his exit. United were then able to prepare their own farewell messages for social media. After that, the process to make Onana their new target finally bore fruit as he was announced as their new number one last week.
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United will pay €55 million (Ksh 8.6 billion) for Onana if he meets appearance criteria and the team win certain trophies.
Onana will now make it his objective to help Ten Hag realise his vision as soon as possible.