Friday 27 April 2018

David De Gea refuses to play for Man United until he is '100pc' focused'

'We have been observing him in preparation. He was not so good; he was not the same David de Gea as before' - Van Gaal

David De Gea has told his coach that he is distracted by all the speculation about his future
David De Gea has told his coach that he is distracted by all the speculation about his future

Chris Bascombe

David De Gea has told Manchester United he does not want to play for the club while his future remains uncertain, Louis Van Gaal has revealed.

De Gea was not selected for last Saturday's match against Tottenham and will miss tonight's trip to Aston Villa after he informed United's goalkeeper coach Frans Hoek that he was eager to sit out United's current fixtures.

"Frans Hoek has a meeting with David de Gea and he asks him, 'Do you want to play?'" said Van Gaal.

Quizzed on De Gea's response, Van Gaal said the goalkeeper said "no".

United later clarified that the Spanish 'keeper "was not eager to play because of the situation and because he was not 100 per cent focused due to all the rumours surrounding him".

Explaining the predicament he was in, Van Gaal said: "Then I have to take the decision. It is a process.

"We have been observing him in preparation. He was not so good; he was not the same David de Gea as before. He was my best player last season. According to the fans, he was the best of the last two years.

"He was fully agreed with our decision. I have one assistant coach and another assistant coach so we speak about that kind of thing.

"We have a goalkeeping coach. I'm not doing everything alone."


United officials also sought to clarify how "the manager has always maintained that David has remained professional throughout this process" but the situation remains a distraction with Real Madrid trying to sign the goalkeeper.

Madrid have failed to match United's £35m valuation for De Gea, and Van Gaal is ready to welcome him back into his side if the asking price is not met.

The Spanish club evidently believe they have an advantage given United have an unhappy player and they are biding their time in the expectation a bid will be accepted before deadline day.

You have to go back to August 1995 and Alan Hansen, in the kind of white jacket that Richie Benaud made his own, remarking that you win nothing with kids to find the last time United lost a league game at Aston Villa.

And yet last December, they almost lost there, one of the rare occasions in which Radamel Falcao came to their rescue.

The Colombian may not have achieved much but he did at least preserve their 20-year sequence in this corner of Birmingham.

That performance was typical of United under Van Gaal. Their home record last season was the third best in the Premier League; away from Old Trafford, they won only six times - fewer than Tottenham, Liverpool or even Crystal Palace.

They lost at Leicester, at Milton Keynes in the League Cup, they failed to win at Sunderland, at Burnley and at West Bromwich Albion. It was not until November 22 that they took three points home and that, perversely, was from Arsenal.

Wayne Rooney scored the second, decisive goal that night and, with Falcao and Robin van Persie forced out, he will be expected to score many more this time around.

Last season, as Van Gaal experimented with systems and formations, the England captain was shifted around the pitch, even ending up as a holding midfielder.

On this summer's tour of the United States, Rooney remarked that he intended to play almost every game as the club's main striker, just as he had been in the two seasons before Van Persie's arrival.

This was confirmed by his manager in his usual emphatic style. "Our aim is to play with Rooney in the strikers' position," he said.

"Chicharito (Javier Hernandez) is the reserve striker and, if he plays, Rooney will be the No 10, but normally Rooney shall play because we have the confidence he can score more than 20 goals."

Van Gaal is setting a high bar. In only two seasons since his move from Everton 11 years ago has Rooney managed 20 goals - in 2009-10 and 2011-12.

Rooney played magnificently in those campaigns, sometimes dragging his club forward in a manner reminiscent of Bryan Robson in United's twilight years.

Whether he can do the same as he approaches his 30th birthday will be one of the great questions hanging over Old Trafford.

The other is how, after two frantic summer transfer windows, Manchester United have allowed themselves to be in a situation where their two reserve strikers are Hernandez and Adnan Januzaj.

One of them was loaned out to Real Madrid last season, while the other, who had flourished under David Moyes, was consigned to the shadows under his successor.

Significantly, Van Gaal said he expected both men to remain at United but he refused to clarify if or when Pedro would be joining United.

"We have a better balance after two transfer windows," he said. "But a better squad has to result in points. Only if we win more points than last season can you say we have a better squad.

"We are at the beginning of the season," he said. "The start is something you just have to survive because you have new players, a new team, a new process that makes the team dynamic different.

"At this time of the season, nobody is 100 per cent and yet they have to play. Sometimes it is because of the World Cup or the Copa America or fulfilling the commercial activities of a club on a pre-season tour. There are a lot of factors.

"You always see it in the level of their game but we have to pay attention to it and our start cannot cost us as many points as last season."

Van Gaal also responded to criticism of him from former Barcelona striker Hristo Stoichkov, who has urged Pedro to snub United because of the manager.

Stoichkov, who played for Van Gaal in the 1990s, said the United coach "destroys" clubs because he is "mediocre".

"I always want to consider who is saying such things and then I know why," said Van Gaal.

"It is not bothering me. He is one of the players I sent away (sold) and that is why he is doing that.

"Players can comment but it is not always the truth. I'm used to that. There are more players who are speaking very highly about me." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Aston Villa v Manchester Utd, Live, Sky Sports 1, 7.45

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