David de Gea could be sold by Manchester United this summer in order to raise transfer funds as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer plans for a long-term rebuild.
De Gea signed a new, improved contract last September , which extended his terms until 2023, and at that stage United were concerned about losing him for free. However, he was passed over for the captaincy in January in favour of Harry Maguire following the departure of Ashley Young to Inter.
United continue to monitor the progress of Dean Henderson, on loan at Sheffield United, and who has helped the Blades to push for their own European place. He is likely to be a future England international and United No.1.
Sergio Romero is perhaps the league’s best reserve goalkeeper, so a managed transition would allow Henderson to take over the role gradually.
De Gea would still be content to return to La Liga, but there is no obvious route back. A move within England would be almost impossible, leaving Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain as potential destinations.
The Spanish goalkeeper’s form is much improved compared to his early season nightmare , but he is no longer producing the same form that brought him four club player of the season awards.
The concerns he had about committing his future have not gone away. The club’s decline following the retirement of Alex Ferguson continues, with United on course for their lowest points haul in decades. The 20-time English champions are still far from challenging for the Premier League, let alone the Champions League.
An extensive overhaul of the first-team squad will require heavy investment, and three players - Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire and Daniel James - came in the summer at a cost of around £150 million ($194m).
Bruno Fernandes was secured in the January transfer window for a potential £65m ($84m), with the club having failed to land Erling Haaland as originally anticipated.
That outlay of over £200m ($258m) was funded in part by existing cash, but a number of exits raised funds and shifted players off the wage bill. Marcos Rojo, Alexis Sanchez and Chris Smalling have left on loan, and the club would happily arrange a permanent transfer for each of them if acceptable deals were proposed.
Roma are keen on tying down Smalling, but Rojo and Sanchez’s huge wages could lead to the club taking a big initial hit with salary payoffs if sales are to be agreed with Estudiantes and Inter respectively.
Young, Romelu Lukaku, Matteo Darmian, James Wilson, Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia have all left on permanent deals since the end of last season but there is further work to do. Phil Jones has barely featured for United this term, playing just twice in the Premier League, and Diogo Dalot has not kicked on as initially hoped.
Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes, meanwhile, may both leave as their contracts are due to end this summer.
Nemanja Matic’s future is in doubt, with the Serbian perhaps in line for a new contract despite only recently expecting to start next season in Italy with Inter. Such is the scale of United’s task that he may be kept on to ensure the squad does not become too stretched but there is a lack of clarity over plans for the midfielder.
In a call to investors on Tuesday, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward pledged to continue the recruitment strategy that should serve to fundamentally alter the first team line-up. With so many players’ futures in doubt, it could prove to be a huge summer.
Woodward anticipates another window where quality rather than quantity is targeted. Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish and James Maddison top the list of potential targets. Another striker, perhaps Jonathan David at Gent, would provide support to Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial at little cost.
They are again looking at an outlay of around £150m, some of which will need to be raised through player sales.
Paul Pogba is expected to leave , but it appears there is little chance of his exit raising more than £100m ($129m). There is a distinct possibility that club, player and agent Mino Raiola may end up compromising on a new contract for the 26-year-old Frenchman.
If that is the case, then other player sales would be considered, at which point De Gea’s future looks more uncertain. Selling De Gea would not be popular amongst supporters, but with United’s cash balance at risk and the club’s competitive chances dwindling, there are few other options to raise money.
If they somehow squeak through to the Champions League next season then they may have more options, otherwise the goalkeeper’s ninth season at Old Trafford may be his last.