Throughout the summer Manchester United have repeatedly insisted that they would only be willing to let goalkeeper David de Gea move to Real Madrid if they received a world record transfer fee for a goalkeeper, or if any deal negotiated included defender Sergio Ramos coming to Old Trafford in exchange.
De Gea only has a year left on his current deal and is yet to sign a new agreement with United, so it’s extremely feasible that the Spaniard could move to the Santiago Bernabeu at the end of this season on a free transfer.
Good news for one man
Despite lots of speculation around United’s no. 1, and boss Louis van Gaal claiming “a lack of focus” was the reason why De Gea didn’t play against Tottenham on Saturday, he is now expected to stay at United beyond the current window and has been named in the team’s squad for their pivotal Champions League play-off matches against Club Brugge.
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All the uncertainty regarding United’s goalkeeping situation could be very good news for a young goalkeeper already at the club.
At the beginning of the summer 22-year-old Sam Johnstone was set to make a permanent move to newly promoted Championship club Preston North End, where he spent the second half of last season on loan.
After all, Preston is Johnstone’s hometown and he kept a clean sheet in the League 1 Play-Off Final when Preston secured promotion with a 4-0 win over Swindon Town at Wembley.
good fortune for Johnstone
Then, after United manager Van Gaal claimed that former Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes didn’t follow his philosophy and decided to put him up for sale, Johnstone was named as a member of the senior team’s pre-season touring party to America.
He played in all three of United’s victories over Club America, San Jose Earthquakes and Barcelona, where his awareness, alertness and distributional skills were particularly impressive.
Preston have since been preparing another loan move for the England Under-21 shot-stopper, but that was put on hold by United due to the De Gea transfer saga. As a result of that Johnstone started on the bench behind Argentinian international Sergio Romero in United’s opening day Premier League victory against Tottenham.
What the future holds
With Danish 'keeper Anders Lindegaard deemed surplus to requirements at the club, Valdes being allowed to leave after refusing to play in a reserve match last season and De Gea seemingly destined to join Spanish giants Real Madrid (if not this season, then next), the opportunities for Johnstone to play for United over the coming months and years will only increase.
Since De Gea is expected to stay, despite refusing to sign a new deal at Old Trafford thus far, United may consequently agree to loan Johnstone out to Preston this season, where the youngster would gain some vital first-team experience. It’s worth noting that the Championship club have just signed former England goalkeeper Chris Kirkland.
If De Gea leaves in the current window, although unlikely, then Johnstone would almost certainly remain at United this season, with cup football being his greatest chance of getting some first-team action.
Nevertheless, with there being a real possibility that the club will be without the goalkeeping trio of Lindegaard, Valdes and De Gea this time next year, Johnstone’s long-term future at United looks both assured and full of promise.
United fans, do you think Johnstone deserves to stay in Van Gaal's squad? Let us know in the comments box below.