COMMENT: Manchester United and their goalkeepers. It's a mess. It's chaos. But it also must be said, nothing that has happened was unexpected...
At the surface level, it appears amateur hour. At the moment of writing, United manager Erik ten Hag has no recognised No1. David de Gea officially came off contract at midnight on Friday. Dean Henderson, while now back at Carrington, is the same player who insulted Ten Hag while at Nottingham Forest last season. And as far as his third choice, Tom Heaton, the Dutchman has had to intervene and block the veteran from accepting an offer from promoted Luton Town. As it stands - and unless he forgives Henderson and his gob - Ten Hag will start preseason with a bunch of kids as his keeper options.
But as we say, this is all surface level stuff. Of course, Ten Hag had hoped to have Andre Onana signed and sealed from Inter Milan by now. But it also must highlighted, United didn't step in and rumble Chelsea's hopes of a deal until a fortnight ago. This isn't one to match the Mason Mount saga. And in Milan, there is a confidence a fee will soon be struck between the two clubs for Ten Hag's old Ajax No1.
Yes, in terms of perception, United's top brass had hoped for things to run smoother. But this is a situation Ten Hag has walked into eyes wide open. Indeed, he's engineered it. It was the manager who ordered the last contract offer made to De Gea be withdrawn. Just as it was he who has instructed John Murtough, the club's technical director, to negotiate sale terms with Forest for Henderson. It may look messy. Chaotic. But regarding his goalkeepers, nothing has sprung up to surprise the manager.
Comparisons, as some have made, with Manchester City just don't wash. These situations rarely run smoothly. Pep Guardiola's jettisoning of Joe Hart was hardly a bed of roses. Just as was his treatment of his former Barcelona keeper Claudio Bravo. City do a lot of things right, but trying to run comparisons with Ten Hag's handling of this situation is drawing a very weak longbow.
Is he making the right call on De Gea? Is the club doing right by their 12-year veteran? Well, that's another call altogether. Regulars will know our support for De Gea. Of where we see the Spaniard in terms of this club's modern day greats. And even now, with the momentum driving De Gea and United towards an almost inevitable split, this column can still see the situation being rescued.
De Gea has seen it all before. Louis van Gaal wanted rid. Jose Mourinho too. And Henderson went behind his back. But in all situations, he still won out. LVG and Jose may never have been truly convinced by the Madrilenian, but by the sheer weight of form and performance, neither man could ignore him.
And today, for De Gea, this feeling remains. All he wants is a fair shot. If Onana arrives, he'll face him down - just as he did Henderson - and before him Victor Valdes and Sergio Romero. As we say, he's seen it all before. If Ten Hag offers the simple assurance of a merit based selection, he'll put pen to paper.
Which would be something also embraced by Onana. As we highlighted last week, if De Gea does re-sign, Onana would arrive in identical circumstances to what he found at Inter a year ago. For De Gea, you can substitute Samir Handanovic. The similarities are uncanny. If Ten Hag plays this right, it really should be a win-win.
The onus is now on Ten Hag. De Gea was ready to sign that previous deal. It was on reduced terms. He knew Ten Hag and Murtough were shopping for fresh competition. Yet he was satisfied with what had been tabled. It was one less problem for United to solve this summer, but then Ten Hag ordered the withdrawal.
Why? Only the manager can answer for that. But De Gea hasn't walked off in a huff. He could, of course. We have news of Cristiano Ronaldo's Al-Nassr in contact. While Inter have made initial enquiries after seeing their planned Onana replacement Guglielmo Vicario choose Tottenham. De Gea's not short offers. He can take up and leave at any time. But it's clear, the priority remains staying a Manchester United player.
From the outside it looks a mess. Chaotic. But there's a plan there. You can see it. Ten Hag just needs to offer that assurance to De Gea. Do that and it will all play out as Manchester United's manager expects.