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MAN UTD KEEPER CRISIS: Why LVG may not buy De Gea replacement

COMMENT: Gareth Bale and Raphael Varane from Real Madrid. Nicolas Otamendi at Valencia. Nico Gaitan from Benfica ... we know Manchester United will be spending big in the coming months. But with David de Gea's Real Madrid move a just about done deal, where are the keeper names?

Hugo Lloris has been mentioned - but that's it. And even then, both the Frenchman and his manager at Tottenham, Mauricio Pochettino, have quickly shutdown the speculation. Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has also briefed those he's closest to in the media to make clear Lloris is not for sale.

So where are the alternatives?

Is it simply the case that Louis van Gaal and Ed Woodward are focusing on outfield positions? That they'll act on finding a new keeper once De Gea has confirmed he's moving to Real?

Or is it that Van Gaal feels he already has De Gea's successor on the books? Has the Dutchman considered all options and discovered there's no-one available superior to fit-again, former Barcelona No1 Victor Valdes?

He only made his full debut in the final game of the season, but ever since he arrived in October, Valdes has made his presence felt. The three-time Champions League winner has barreled through the United locker room like a steam train, his personality lifting everyone inside the club.

At Barca, it was Valdes, along with Carles Puyol and Dani Alves, all big, positive personalities, who were the heart and soul of the dressing room. With United shorn of the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic, Valdes has helped fill the vacuum.

Even David Moyes, last year, conceded United's locker room was "quiet". But that's changed this past season - in no small way thanks to Valdes' addition.

Van Gaal may've worked with Valdes at Barca, but that's not why he reached out to the Catalan when he was training with Liverpool. He wanted Valdes to not only push De Gea, but try to bring him out of himself.

It's the one major weakness currently in De Gea's game. One which Van Gaal and his keeper coach Frans Hoek quickly recognised. The Spaniard is not a vocal on-field presence. He doesn't organise his back four and fails to warn them of potential threats.

Which is the complete opposite of what you get from Valdes - and why Van Gaal may be prepared to go into the new season with the 32 year-old as his outright No1.

On current form, De Gea is among the best keepers in the world. Real Madrid will be getting, at 24, a talent with the potential to become one of the game's greats. Without De Gea's heroics last season, United would not have come close to a top four finish.

But how many of those needed wonder saves could've been prevented by De Gea organising those ahead of him? Could those one-on-one chances have been anticipated and so snuffed out? That's been the topic of conversation among United's coaching staff this season.

Pound for pound, at this point in time, De Gea is Valdes' superior. But there is a feeling at United that Valdes' personality and organising ability will offset De Gea's amazing shot-stopping prowess.

Valdes was loved at Barca. But he was never fully accepted by those in the boardroom. There was always a nagging doubt about whether Barca could improve with a better keeper between the posts.

His performance at Hull was Valdes' career in a nutshell. It was a cleansheet. But in the first-half, he avoided disaster after dropping a high ball in a crowded penalty area. However, his next action was denying Ahmed Elmohamady's header with a breathtaking save. Valdes leapt to his feet and punched the air. He still had it.

Van Gaal was enthusiastic about Valdes' debut at the final whistle "he is very quick and explosive". This is his idea of a goalkeeper. Someone with a big personality, who can be his defensive coach on the field.

Is it just coincidence that after the trail for Borussia Dortmund captain Mats Hummels had gone cold, United are now taking a serious look at Valencia's Spanish speaking defender Otamendi? If Van Gaal is to bring in a new, leading centre-half, it makes sense he and the club's first-choice keeper have no communication issues.

Even on the bench, Valdes' impact was felt this season. While Van Gaal and Ryan Giggs muttered behind the back of their hands, Valdes was always in the background, smiling and chirping away. There he'd be, punching the air and high fiving teammates.

It's that strength of personality which could get Valdes a clear run at being No1 next season - and the loss of De Gea felt not so keenly.


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Chris Beattie
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