Amid all the bickering about the reasons for Manchester United’s struggles of late, there has been one subject on which it appears there is an overwhelming consensus: they would be even worse off were it not for David de Gea.
The Spain international continues to stand out as United’s one player of world-class ability, and, while his form may not be quite of the ridiculous standard which has seen him pick up four of the club’s last five Player of the Year awards, he remains the one asset the Old Trafford hierarchy can barely contemplate losing.
However, Jose Mourinho’s recent public assessment of De Gea’s ongoing contract talks sparked major concerns in some areas of the United fan base, especially since there have been suggestions that Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain are keeping an eye on developments.
"I am not confident but I am also no worried," Mourinho said to Sky Sports when asked if he was expecting De Gea’s ongoing contract talks to reach a positive resolution. "I can not find the word in English. Let’s just see what happens."
There are only six months remaining on the former Atletico Madrid star’s current deal, and, even though United hold the option to extend the contract by a year until 2020, the failure to agree new terms before next summer is likely to see the club seriously consider cashing in on the No.1 rather than potentially lose him for nothing 12 months later.
De Gea famously came very close to leaving the 'Theatre of Dreams' in August 2015, when he was a faulty fax machine away from signing for Real Madrid, but he has continued to speak highly of his life in Manchester and is thought to be keen to extend his stay.
United had initially looked set to prepare a deal worth £275,000 ($354,000) a week to keep him at Old Trafford but that projected salary has soared in recent months in light of his continued form and the club’s decision to sign Alexis Sanchez on a Premier League-record contract worth around £390,000 ($502,000) a week.
As a result, United now look set to offer De Gea anything up to £375,000 ($483,000) to get his signature on the dotted line. The one sticking point, though, is United’s form.
In addressing the speculation surrounding his future, he stated: "You have to be focused on what's important. What matters is the team and all of us being focused on what we need to focus, on which is winning games, rather than contracts or any topics that can be a distraction."
However, De Gea's potential renewal is obviously tied to United winning games – something they are not doing a lot of at the moment.
With the club sitting in eighth place in the league table, well adrift of the pace-setters, and having already been dumped out of the Carabao Cup, De Gea’s hopes of being a part of a trophy-winning team have been hit by the inconsistencies on show ahead of him.
In 13 games this season, De Gea has now conceded 18 goals, a figure which he hadn’t reached until 25 games into his 2017-18 campaign.
It is widely accepted to be a far greater reflection of the time and space being afforded opponents in United’s defensive half of the field rather than any shortcoming of the goalkeeper’s, but it is still something which could potentially have a knock-on effect when it comes to persuading the Spaniard to prolong his stay.
However, the 27-year-old’s affection for his life in Manchester weighs in United’s favour, as does the combination of Real Madrid’s summer swoop for Thibaut Courtois and the Spanish press’ unforgiving assessment of his form for the national team.
With the Blancos not in the market and De Gea adored and heralded in England like never seen in his homeland, the keeper’s heart is far from anchored in Spain.
Juventus and PSG also seem like curious potential suitors, with both outfits seemingly happy with their lot in the goalkeeping department for the time being.
Juve have been pleasantly surprised by the form of Wojciech Szczesny since the Pole took the No.1 shirt from Gianluigi Buffon, while the Bianconeri also have the highly-rated Mattia Perin waiting in the wings.
Meanwhile, in Paris, there is also a surfeit of quality between the posts, with Buffon and Alphonse Areola currently sharing the duties, and Kevin Trapp also out on loan with Eintracht Frankfurt.
As such, everything points to a positive outlook for United as they look to pin down De Gea to a longer-term contract.
Naturally, things can change quickly in football but Mourinho perhaps ought to be more confident than he has intimated thus far since the Reds look the most willing and most able to give De Gea what he wants going forward.
Present league placing notwithstanding, of course.