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The '0.012 percenters' era? Why De Gea looks out of place at this Man Utd

COMMENT: Some were on the beach. Others angering their own on social media. And even one or two were enjoying the success of their own merchandising line. But there was one player of Manchester United. One from that sixth-placed team last season. Who was still taking his career seriously...

The sad thing is David de Gea, as it stands today, won't be around for long. The United No1 steadfast in refusing to commit to new terms. Soon to be 29, De Gea is desperate to taste Champions League glory. And with today's United failing to convince with their planning. Their transfer policy. It really does appear a split is now likely.

Some are claiming it'll be no bad thing. De Gea this past season a shadow of his former self. The blunders. The concentration lapses. All carried into the campaign after a disastrous World Cup.

But it's De Gea's response which sets him apart. And it's why his sale will hit United like no other departure this summer. For while Jesse Lingard was boasting about his clothing line. While he and Marcus Rashford were taunting those outside the "0.012 per cent". And while others were working on deals elsewhere. De Gea was focused on his football. His career.

The days after that final defeat at home to Cardiff City, De Gea sat down with trusted confidants - including United goalkeeper coach Emilio Alvarez - to review the toughest 12 months of his career. It had been a debrief long planned. The Spaniard knew he'd been out of sorts this past season. Yes, he'd had his moments. Victory at Wembley against Tottenham a highlight. But for De Gea, the campaign just gone wasn't good enough. And well before that final whistle blew at Old Trafford on May 12, he has been determined to fix it.

The crisis talks over, De Gea could've followed the lead of the rest of United's squad (bar one, we'll mention him in a sec) and headed off to the beach. After all, a sixth place finish for a United team is always cause for celebration. A job well done. They all should be satisfied with themselves, these 0.012 percenters.

It's certainly rubbing off. Angel Gomes, a player both club and country have high hopes for, declaring this week that both Lingard and Rashford are "role models". "He's (Rashford) always been someone I've looked up to as a role model," said Gomes in a claim that really strikes at the heart of why a club culture matters.

But clearly, De Gea hadn't read the script. And it's perhaps why he's ever closer now to cleaning out his locker at Carrington.

Instead of he and Idurne spending the break ahead of Spain's Euro qualifiers at some luxury resort, De Gea approached the Spanish Federation (RFEF). His break was over. It had been spent picking apart his game with those he trusted most. Now was the time to put theory into practice.

The Spaniard sought permission from the Federation to use the training pitches and also the gym at the Ciudad del Fútbol. The RFEF obliged and even roped in a personal gym instructor and fitness coach to work with De Gea during the ten days he would use the facilities solo.

It was only this week that De Gea was joined at the Ciudad del Fútbol by the rest of Luis Enrique's Spain squad. And they soon coined a new nickname for their goalkeeper - 'Pocaplaya'. The same moniker Luis Aragones, the late La Roja icon, had given Andres Iniesta for his pale complexion.

De Gea took it in good jest. Indeed, his efforts over the previous ten days only elevating the respect his teammates and Enrique's coaching staff had of him. De Gea knew standards had slipped this past year and was determined to do something about it. Luke Shaw apart, last season may've been good enough for his teammates at United, but not for the Spaniard.

And to be fair to Shaw, he also pulled a 'Pocaplaya' immediately after the Cardiff defeat. The left-back training on his own at Carrington the following week before taking a fitness coach to Spain with him for more work. Shaw was simply keeping up the good habits of last summer, when he surprised Jose Mourinho with news he was training on his own in Dubai. The then United manager was delighted with the initiative shown. And Shaw would be rewarded last month with the club's Player of the Year award.

So perhaps there's still some hope for the culture inside Carrington. But you have to say it's faint. With the likes of Ander Herrera, Antonio Valencia and potentially Juan Mata all leaving, that leadership vacuum needs to be filled.

But as it stands today, it won't be by De Gea. His approach to career now looking out of place at this United. The time (or is that threat?) of the 0.012 percenters is about to arrive.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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