In some respects, David De Gea’s performance for Manchester United on Sunday was a microcosm of his Old Trafford career so far. In the 1-1 draw with Spurs, De Gea pulled off a string of top-class stops to keep a rampant Tottenham side at bay. The Spanish international is considered by many to be one of, if not the best, out-and-out shot stopper in the Premier League. Clint Dempsey will certainly testify to that, as he was off celebrating before De Gea miraculously turned his left-footed effort wide early in the second half.
But the young goalkeeper, not for the first time it has to be said, proved to be as fragile and fantastic in equal measures. Alex Ferguson has always demanded that his goalkeepers offer an authoritative presence, an area in which De Gea has sometimes struggled. The goalkeepers weak punch in stoppage time fell short, straight at the feet of Tottenham winger Aaron Lennon, who turned the ball to American international Dempsey to slot home. Two points were dropped for United, and ultimately some of the blame has to lie with De Gea.
This latest error has only stoked the rumours that have surfaced in the past week or so that De Gea might be on his way out of Old Trafford. The reasons for which is dependent on your newspaper of choice.
There are reports that Sir Alex Ferguson has finally lost patience with his young goalkeeper and will listen to offers for him. Whereas the Daily Mail claims that De Gea is the man that Barcelona have cited to replace the departing Victor Valdes, who will not be renewing his contract at Barcelona in 2014.
It begs the question: Who would Ferguson look to if he was to move De Gea just 18 months after splashing out £17m on him? I’ll take a look at some of the possible contenders...
Marc-André Ter Stegen is the latest young star on the conveyor belt of exciting young German goalkeepers. Whilst the goalscoring exploits of Marco Reus stole a lot of the headlines in regards to Borussia Mönchengladbach's last campaign, Ter Stegen was fantastic throughout. So good in fact, that there are already calls in Germany for him to replace Manuel Neuer in the national side.
The 20-year-old has already demonstrated maturity ahead of his years, showcasing an air of confidence that is comparable to that of an emerging Joe Hart in his breakthrough season at Birmingham City. He is both vocal and commanding, whilst also possessing a plethora of shot-stopping abilities and excellent distribution skills.
If United are seriously looking at Ter Stegen, which all of Europe's top sides surely will be, then they would not just be getting a great prospect, they would be getting an established top class keeper. He would not come cheap however, especially as his reputation continues to blossom within the game
If Ferguson does chose to move De Gea, then he might be wary about paying such a high amount for another young goalkeeper from overseas. Instead, he may look for a keeper that is used to the blood and thunder of the Premier League...
Stoke City have been one of the best defensive units in European football this season. At the heart of that has been Asmir Begovic. The Bosnian is a big physical presence who really takes ownership of his area, very much in keeping with the qualities that Tony Pulis demands from his Stoke players.
If Ferguson is looking for a goalkeeper who is used to the rough-and-tumble of English football, then Begovic could very well be the perfect option. Just imagine the battering he must take in training from the likes of Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross!
United have been linked with the Stoke stopper in the past, and the reported asking price of around £8m could be a steal for such an vastly improved young goalkeeper.
Alex Ferguson has often spoke of his regret at not signing Joe Hart. The Manchester United manager bemoaned last year how he could have signed the England No. 1 for £100,000 when he was at Shrewsbury Town.
The next young up-and-coming England keeper is undoubtedly Birmingham City's Jack Butland. And if the hype surrounding him is to be believed, then Ferguson may well look to snap him up before one of his rivals do. The Birmingham youngster, similar to Joe Hart, has been in and around the England set up from a very young age. This can only stand him in good stead, with the England coaches rumoured to have been impressed with his temperament.
Butland is almost certainly set to leave Birmingham this January, with the club making no secret that it is strapped for cash. He could provide a cut-price option with lots of potential, but United would face competition from the likes of Everton, Liverpool and Fulham for his signature, all whom may well be able to offer him first team football more regularly than the Red Devils.
Alex Ferguson is certainly a manager who will not make the same mistake twice.
Perhaps Alex Ferguson has learnt a lesson when it comes to young goalkeepers and may well look towards a more experienced replacement. With this in mind, Victor Valdes could be a wise choice for the Manchester United manager.
It would make sense wouldn't it? Barcelona apparently want De Gea and United will need a replacement. Surely some kind of swap deal could be put together? 31-year-old Valdes ticks all the boxes in respect of experience, having played on the biggest stages with some of the world's best players. It is a testament to his ambition that he wants to go and prove himself abroad having already won the lot at Barca. He will be desperate to prove wrong those who claim he has been a mere passenger in the Barcelona success story.
One thing United will look carefully at is this: The Catalan giants might be open to a cut-price sale rather than letting their goalkeeper walk out on a free. If they look to tie up De Gea as a replacement prior to the expiration of Valdes' contract, then I would expect to be hearing more about this potential deal. Then we might as well see what Valdes is really all about.
Of course, if De Gea does move on, Ferguson could always look within his current playing staff for a replacement. The man who has been vying with De Gea for the United goalkeeping spot, Anders Lindegaard could well step in to permanently take his position between the sticks at Old Trafford.
Whilst Lindegaard's highlight reel may not be as spectacular as that of his Spanish teammate, there is an argument for him being much more reliable than De Gea. If we were to do a quick mental tally of the mistakes that each keeper has made, then those made by De Gea would far outweigh those committed by Lindegaard. He is much more of a "bread and butter" goalkeeper.
Lindegaard, at 28 years of age, is still young for a goalkeeper and an extended run in the side will allow him to add more skills to an already impressive repertoire.
The Danish keeper's main strengths are in some respects, a mirror of De Gea's weaknesses. He is vocal and commands his penalty area well, whilst offering a much more stern physical presence. He is particularly confident from high balls and crosses, both of which have been problem areas for the Spaniard.
If Ferguson can recoup a similar figure that United paid for De Gea 18 months ago, then Lindegaard could save the Red Devils the hassle of another arduous search for a new goalkeeper, as well as saving them some money. And that money could be invested in different parts of the squad where United are a bit short.
After all, we all know what happened the last time United put their faith in a Danish goalkeeper!
Who do you think would be the best option for Manchester United is De Gea was to pack his bags? Let me know in the comments section or follow me on Twitter: @ MattJFootball