Manchester United’s pre-season tour of the United States ended on a disappointing note, but there were plenty of positives to take, one being the immediate impact of Andre Onana.
The Red Devils have undergone a huge changing of the guard between the sticks this summer, with Erik ten Hag ruthlessly waving goodbye to David de Gea and calling on his former Ajax number one to step in as the Spaniard’s replacement at Old Trafford.
And when you take off the nostalgia-tinted spectacles, it’s not difficult to understand why the United manager was so keen to replace the De Gea with the Cameroonian.
For all of De Gea’s wonderful – and sometimes superhuman – saves over the years, his powers had waned and last season was the latest in a highlight reel of errors.
It’ll take some getting used to having Onana in goal, however. De Gea had gained an unfortunate reputation for being rather safe in his approach – ‘safe’ a synonym for being allergic to claiming crosses and leaving his line – while Onana is just about the exact opposite.
In short, he’s an absolute nutter. But the best teams in football have unhinged nutters between the sticks these days. Crucially, nutters who can pass the ball to a freakishly high standard. But all while being a little bit crazy.
Onana has already ticked all of the above boxes, in merely two halves of friendly football for his new club. Wowing fans with his sweeper style and his astonishing catalogue of passes, it was neither of those incredible attributes that saw him endear himself to fans against Borussia Dortmund.
It was actually a moment where – after getting down low to produce a smart stop – Onana sprung back to his feet and sprinted towards Harry Maguire, who quickly felt the wrath of his new colleague.
— Planet Football (@planetfutebol) July 31, 2023
Ouch. That’ll be Harry not passing up on a 50/50 again.
Some would call it a little excessive from Onana in a pre-season friendly, especially towards a player whose confidence is already through the floor. But United and Ten Hag need to be ruthless.
A third-place finish and a Carabao Cup in his first season was a strong start, but nothing more than that. And Onana very evidently embodies that need to push on.
If there was ever someone capable of putting a proverbial rocket up the backside of everyone around him, it’s the 27-year-old, who arrives with plenty of expectation and off the back of losing out in the Champions League final.
Being able to come in and berate the defenders in front of you as the newbie around the place says it all about why United desperately needed Onana. He embodies the continued shift in mentality that Ten Hag has been working tirelessly to achieve since arriving last summer.
If we’re being honest, there’s no way De Gea would’ve flown out of his goal like that and given Maguire the grilling he needed after making a very clear error.
Onana, though, isn’t fussed and we absolutely love it. The guy is bonkers, but crucially backs it up, which is what allows him to demand so much of his colleagues.
There will be plenty of times next season when the Cameroonian has blood pressure spiking universally inside Old Trafford. There will even be moments when he’s the subject of heavy criticism and grilling from his colleagues for making glaring errors.
But that’s the price you pay for a batsh*t crazy goalkeeper with a winning mentality and a frightening ability on the ball. United desperately needed to pay that price and take the gamble if they wish to close the gap at the top of the Premier League.
Even if it doesn’t work out, at least we’ll get more rather hilarious moments like this along the way.
By Mitchell Wilks