David de Gea will start for Manchester United against Huddersfield Town, arguably because Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has no alternative
David de Gea is set to see out the season as Manchester United's first-choice goalkeeper despite a string of uncharacteristic errors that could cost the club a Champions League berth.
The Spain international has failed to recapture his best form since struggling at the World Cup in Russia and mistakes have become more frequent as the campaign comes to a close.
His high-profile blunders against Barcelona and Manchester City were followed by the cheap concession of an equaliser in last weekend's draw with Chelsea, which further damaged United's bid to finish fourth in the Premier League.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continues to stand by the under-fire 28-year-old but is it a case of the United manager's hands being tied by a lack of alternatives and needing to keep a still-prized asset happy?
3 - David de Gea has made three errors leading to goals in his last four games in all competitions for Manchester United - as many as in his previous 123 matches combined for the Red Devils. Sloppy. #MUNCHE pic.twitter.com/Tbq59cYSU7— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 28, 2019
Solskjaer's staunch defence of De Gea
"David has all my confidence," the Red Devils boss said ahead of Sunday's trip to Huddersfield Town, referring to De Gea's established body of work as deserving of respect.
There is no question that United have long relied on the former Atletico Madrid man to bail out a suspect defence and a long history of excellence is his strongest argument against the axe.
In each of the six seasons prior to 2018-19, De Gea never committed more than one error leading to a goal and avoided such embarrassment all together last term. Such form has made Real Madrid long-standing admirers.
Ole: "The goalkeeping department are a fantastic, tight-knit group with Emilio, Sergio, Lee and David. They've obviously experienced better times than just now, but [David's] ready for Sunday." #MUFC pic.twitter.com/BZquUKB0uY— Manchester United (@ManUtd) May 3, 2019
While the floodgates now seemed to have opened, the next two fixtures for Solskjaer's side - the final day features a visit from Cardiff City - are opportune moments for De Gea to claw back some confidence.
Romero injury delays tough decision
Demoting De Gea is an alluring idea when you have a goalkeeper of Sergio Romero's ability and experience sitting on the bench.
Unfortunately for Solskjaer - or perhaps to the manager's relief - a knee problem will rule Romero out of contention for the trip to John Smith's Stadium, removing a potential selection headache.
The 32-year-old is an otherwise strong option: his seven Premier League appearances have resulted in six clean sheets and an outstanding 90.91 save percentage, a number far superior to De Gea's 73.43 per cent from an admittedly far larger sample size.
Solskjaer, it must be noted, declined to entertain the "ifs and buts" of whether Romero would have started against Huddersfield had he been available.
It will be fascinating to see which way he leans for the season-ending clash against Cardiff if the Argentina international recovers and De Gea produces anything less than a polished performance in West Yorkshire.
Grant a stopgap solution?
It speaks volumes about Lee Grant's clearly defined role at Old Trafford that, even amid thinning competition, his name barely rated a mention at Solskjaer's pre-match news conference on Friday.
At 36 years of age and with Premier League experience, the ex-Burnley and Stoke City shot-stopper can mount a reasonable claim to say he deserves a measure of trust.
Nine clean sheets in 31 appearances for a middling and eventually relegated Potters side is not to be dismissed.
But Grant was signed as third choice and that is the way it will stay, save for a fleeting EFL Cup cameo that ended in a penalty shoot-out defeat to former club Derby County.
No matter how far his form dips, De Gea's place is evidently not about to be awarded to his English stablemate.
The long-term contenders
De Gea has never stayed long out of transfer rumours and a combination of factors have added to the debate about United's long-term plans for the number one shirt.
Dean Henderson's form on loan at Sheffield United is one of them.
The England Under-21 international started every match as the Blades sealed promotion from the Championship with a game to spare, conceding a league-low 39 goals in the process.
Henderson has since suggested he is eager to assist Chris Wilder's side in the Premier League and he is not the only gifted young gloveman on United's books.
"We're hopeful having spoken with the powers that be at Manchester United that we can agree a deal for Dean to play for us in the Premier League next year." #SUFC— Sheffield United (@SUFC_tweets) May 2, 2019
Jose Mourinho once labelled Joel Pereira "the best Portuguese goalkeeper of the next generation" and a series of loan stints, most recently at Belgian outfit KV Kortrijk, have served to ready him for the top level.
Regardless of whether that pair are prepared to take the next step, neither are in a position to displace a man who looks set, at least for now, to stay comfortably ahead of the crowd.