Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has refused to guarantee that David de Gea will keep his place for Manchester United’s crucial Premier League meeting with West Ham United on Wednesday night.
De Gea’s starting status has come under scrutiny following his errors in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea, which were only the latest in a long line of mistakes.
The 29-year-old faces competition from Sergio Romero, United’s second-choice goalkeeper, who is recognised as one of the best back-ups in the league and has generally deputised well when called upon.
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De Gea’s long-term status as United’s No 1 is also under threat from Dean Henderson, the 23-year-old goalkeeper who has impressed while on loan at Sheffield United over the past two years.
Henderson is understood to be unwilling to return to United next season merely as cover to De Gea. A third season on loan at Bramall Lane is a possibility, with United seeking to open new contract negotiations.
Solskjaer was in no mood to discuss De Gea on Tuesday morning, at one point insisting that “this is not going to become a David de Gea press conference”, and refused to say whether the Spaniard would start against West Ham.
“No, because I don’t want to talk about it,” Solskjaer said. “We stick together as a group.
“Of course we’re going to stick together as a group and as I said he’s proven before he’s mentally strong. We’ll stay together and we’ll see the team on Wednesday night.”
Solskjaer said he would stick by De Gea in the aftermath of Sunday’s defeat and described him as “the best goalkeeper in the world” only last month following criticism of his performance in a 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur.
Ahead of West Ham’s visit, the United manager repeatedly said that De Gea has the mental fortitude to bounce back and regain form.
“David’s mentally strong enough to know his job is to perform in training the next day and be ready for the games,” he said.
“That’s your job to talk about and write about and my job is to prepare a team for West Ham. We’re not going to talk about individuals because no one here will fear we put more pressure on them.”
De Gea recently celebrated making his 400th United appearance and to drop a goalkeeper who has won four of the club’s last six Player of the Year awards would be a significant call.
Solskjaer, however, insisted he is not afraid to make tough decisions. “You have to,” he said. “Every postion is a big one here so you’ve got to do what is right for the team and the club. We’ll do that on Wednesday, we’ll do that on Sunday and then when the season’s finished we’ll make more decisions.”
The United manager refused to say whether Romero was disappointed to miss out on Sunday’s semi-final, having played as Solskjaer ‘cup’ goalkeeper for much of the campaign.
“Everything we talk about is between ourselves,” he said. “We keep that relationship open and every player can trust me to keep that confidential.”
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