Replacing David de Gea was always going to be a challenge, no matter how many times he tried to soften the blow in the end by throwing the ball into the back of his own net.
But when Manchester United managed to secure Champions League finalist Andre Onana for just £47.2million, many assumed that they’d just found an instant upgrade at a bargain price.
Thrust straight in as De Gea’s more progressive replacement in a bid to take Erik ten Hag’s side to the next level, for every progressive pass, it feels like there’s been a glaring error causing a goal to match it.
Onana’s misfiring start has been the story of United’s season as a whole so far. For every bright spark, there’s been a moment of madness to eclipse it.
The Cameroon international has shown glimpses of exactly why Ten Hag was so ruthless with the Spaniard he replaced in the first place, though, with a number of delightful pings and even taking the ball off his defenders more regularly throughout the game.
If you can look past the side effects that come with signing a keeper like Onana – predominantly the stress it puts on the hearts of fans – then a progressive stopper with fast feet is always the way to go in this day and age, no matter how much your dad disagrees.
There is no doubt that United made the right decision in finally moving on from De Gea, but with Onana showing a similar desire to assist the opposition himself with a number of glaring errors, he is set to leave for the Africa Cup of Nations with his stock hanging in the balance.
And he isn’t the only international calibre goalkeeper on the books at United.
No, we’re not talking about Tom Heaton. We’re talking about Altay Bayindir – the Red Devils’ forgotten signing patiently waiting to stake his claim.
Bayindir was signed from Fenerbahce on the final day of the summer transfer window to provide competition, but has yet to make his debut with Onana retaining his spot in the EFL Cup as United were dumped out by Newcastle.
Now, though, it’s his time to shine. With AFCON around the corner and the spot between the sticks up for grabs, the Turkey international has the chance to announce himself to the world.
And if his previous catalogue of saves are anything to go by, we’re expecting fireworks. The 25-year-old looks scarily sharp.
— Suhail (@SuhailChowdhary) December 28, 2023
Manchester United doing quietly shrewd business and creating competition for places at a bargain price? Stop the world, we’re getting off.
Dying on the hill of the highlight reel tax is something we’ve all done before, but it’s hard not to be impressed by the number two yet to be unleashed by Ten Hag.
With eight caps for Turkey and well over 100 for Fenerbahce, Bayindir comes vastly experienced at just 25 and crucially provides that with safe hands, an imposing physical frame and astute positioning within his box to shut down close-range chances.
What stands out, though, is his ability to stop a striker when one-on-one. Combining physicality with textbook technique and timing, he looks impossible to knock the ball around, reminiscent of Peter Schmeichel.
The crucial next step for Bayindir is to see if he can cut the mustard at the top level, beat the highlight reel tax and show off some progressive footwork that can turn Ten Hag’s head.
Onana arrived as first choice, but come February, the Dutch coach could have a real headache on his hands.
By Mitch Wilks