Pinch yourselves Manchester United fans, you can be forgiven for thinking you’re dreaming. We are in the middle of October, you have spent over £150million on star signings and you have won three of your last four Premier League matches.
That’s right, despite the fact that the rest of the footballing world are muttering degrading curses under their breath it would appear that Louis van Gaal’s master cure is slowly seeping into the veins of a United side which had looked like a poisoned patient not too far from the grave, not too long ago.
Back to back 2-1 wins against West Ham and Everton might not be quite the same as doing Chelsea over in their own backyard, or even the sort of results that Premier League hopefuls bank on to win them the title, but it’s a start.
Nine points from three games sees the Red Devils sitting in fourth place and, though they remain eight points adrift of the summit after only seven games, the aim of Champions League football is for now very much alive.
Yet it’s periods of optimism like this that the fans, and more importantly the powers that be at Old Trafford, must remember that football is a game of incredibly small margins. The devastating fallout of Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement offered a glimpse into the future that United nearly succumbed to and, although Van Gaal looks to have steered them back onto an upwards course, the thick fog of of uncertainty still remains.
It would be all too easy to proclaim that United are out of the woods, only for them to plunge back into a hole after making a bad decision. Those who believe that the bad decisions aren’t there to be made clearly haven’t seen the signs now looming large.
The worst, without a degree of doubt, is the possibility that United could be forced to cash in on star performer David de Gea next summer, with Real Madrid circling round the young Spaniard like starved vultures around appetising carrion. Except De Gea isn’t carrion. Far from it; he’s now one of the most prized goalkeepers in the world.
De Gea at United
There was more than just a murmur of discontent from the United faithful when Sir Alex Ferguson took a gamble on De Gea back in 2011. The club was still reeling from the retirement of the great Edwin van der Sar when the 23-year-old arrived from Atletico Madrid; his fee of £17.8million - which broke the British record for a ‘keeper - did little to ease the pressure.
So it was that early trepidations from the stands appeared to be lodged in the right place, with De Gea looking unsure, unsettled and alarmingly unconfident when tasked with keeping burly Premier League forwards at bay.
Critics hounded him, his own defenders berated him and even Sir Alex would have been hard-pressed to staunchly defend his decision to pick him over the more renowned options he ignored.
De Gea's rise
In true Fergie fashion though United were forced to wait until De Gea began to pay dividends. Inspired performances paved the way for doubters to begin to slowly retract their apprehensions, and by the time Ferguson finally stepped down from his role as manager United’s ‘keeper had proven himself worthy.
If there was ever a time for his form to plummet then David Moyes’s introduction was the ideal catalyst. Yet, whereas the usually unerring Goliaths that made up his defence began to crumble De Gea only improved, and his showing last campaign was one of the only reasons the Red Devils retained a modicum of respect for their seventh placed finish.
Accolades including the club’s Player of the Year award at the end of season presentation ceremony saw the stopper realised as the shining light of last term, and this year, most expertly demonstrated in the Everton game, it looks like being much of the same.
Yet his routine masterclasses were only going to go unnoticed for so long and, with Madrid becoming increasingly disillusioned with the sub-par performances of Iker Casillas, it appears to be they who will lead the host of clubs no doubt ready to hedge their bets in trying to land him.
Recent reports from Spain have suggested that Florentino Perez sees De Gea as an individual ready made for Los Blancos, and to say that places him in a dangerous limbo is an understatement.
United will want to retain him, of that there can be no doubt, but once upon a time they also wanted to keep Cristiano Ronaldo, and not too long after that Tottenham Hotspur wanted to keep Gareth Bale.
Despite his cherished status De Gea’s current contract at Old Trafford runs out in 2016, meaning that if Van Gaal isn’t able to convince him to put pen to paper on a new deal before next summer, his hand may be forced into selling him.
If that happens it will be nothing short of a disaster, particularly seen as though De Gea is looking more and more like he could be sculpted into a future captain for the club. Wayne Rooney is tailor made for the role at the moment but eventually he’ll be forced to hand over the duties, just as Nemanja Vidic was in the summer.
When that happens will De Gea be a leading candidate? Or will he already be the Galactico Perez is obviously keen to make him?