Red Devils must fight tooth and nail to keep De Gea, says Neil Humphreys
Don't focus on LVG, but on irreplaceable goalkeeper
(Diego Costa 90+1)
MAN UNITED 1
(Jesse Lingard 61)
Forget Louis van Gaal. He's off at the end of the season; a done deal; a lost cause.
To waste any more words on the tedious 'will he, won't he' soap opera is an exercise in futility, rather like Manchester United trying to hold onto a lead.
The only Red Devil worth saving is the one who saves the unworthy Red Devils.
David de Gea offers hope where there really should be none.
He's the bridge between the one at Chelsea and Manchester United, the man who minds the gap between the two clubs. Without de Gea, the rudderless Red Devils would be mired in the mediocre sludge with the Blues.
So cherish the Spaniard. Elevate him and remember him because he'll be off at the end of the season.
This is de Gea's swansong, one that he doesn't deserve, but his immovable manager almost certainly does.
De Gea's string of outstanding saves, particularly the stop in the 96th minute to deny Diego Costa a second goal, earned United a point yesterday (Singapore time), but we've been here before; more times than the culpable coach cares to remember.
Van Gaal continues to attack journalists, officials and timekeepers, but refuses to acknowledge that external forces do not conspire to clap him in irons. It's his acrobatic, gravity-defying goalkeeper who continues to spring him from jail.
Even the combustible Costa recognised his countryman's heroics at Stamford Bridge, embracing United's goalkeeper at the final whistle.
Others gathered to pay their respects, many of whom were wearing Chelsea jerseys.
The adjectival "world-class" is prefixed to so many English Premier League names these days, it's slipping into parody. The draw between two fallen giants included just one participant where the description truly befitted his performance.
De Gea is a man apart at United. More importantly, he's a restless athlete. He wants to go home.
It's a familiar tale at Old Trafford, but the central characters are proving less malleable this time round.
In those euphoric, post-season days of 2008, Cristiano Ronaldo sat down with his "father in sport".
Still basking in the glow of Champions League victory, the Portuguese asked for the chance to fulfil his boyhood ambition.
REAL MADRID DNA
His Iberian upbringing, cultural background and every strand of his DNA screamed "Real Madrid".
Sir Alex Ferguson, an instinctive man-manager who now lectures on leadership at Harvard, asked for one more campaign.
If Ronaldo gave United just one more season to prepare for his impending departure, Ferguson would accede to his request.
Both men kept their word. Their relationships with both each other and Manchester United remain impregnable.
In pre-season 2015, de Gea made the same request. Van Gaal dropped him. The manager then launched a counterproductive PR offensive.
With characteristic bombast, the Dutchman claimed that de Gea asked to be dropped (a claim denied by the goalkeeper and never contradicted by the club.)
Van Gaal publicly rebuked his goalkeeper for engineering a transfer, trotting out the hackneyed cliche about players not being bigger than clubs. He tried to paint the mild-mannered Spaniard as a pantomime villain.
The dastardly scheme backfired, revealing perhaps who the real culprit was in the phoney war.
De Gea was left out of the side for the best part of a month.
Consider the point gained at Chelsea and then consider the points lost, while the Spaniard sat fiddling with his club tie in an executive box.
It's fair to assume the six-point gap between the Manchester clubs might be a tad narrower now.
Watching de Gea pull off one superlative stop after another must be a poignant experience for the disillusioned supporter, a sad mix of gratitude and frustration. With each outstretched palm, the Spaniard appears to be waving goodbye.
Not only did van Gaal engage in a petty, pre-season war of words with his custodian, he then proceeded to give de Gea little incentive to stay.
United's possession-based strategy, though marginally improved, lends itself to long periods of inertia before opponents spring to life in the latter stages.
As Chelsea demonstrated, teams can benefit from counter-attacking surges against United, which puts tremendous pressure on de Gea at a time when goalkeepers hope to be counting down the clock.
He's frequently overworked and often unappreciated by his manager.
Every angry press conference concerns van Gaal's predicament, but the club's future is not really about him. It's about his goalkeeper.
United never truly recovered from allowing their last irreplaceable player to leave the club and history will now repeat itself.
The Old Trafford faithful should savour their peerless goalkeeper while they still can.
Unlike van Gaal, de Gea will be missed when he's gone.