'Cristiano Ronaldo broke David De Gea back in 2018'
"This is not going to become a David De Gea press conference. We're just going to stick together."
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer answered two questions about the beleaguered David De Gea in his press briefing before Wednesday's crucial clash with West Ham, and that was it.
The Manchester United goalkeeper has made a number of errors leading to goals this season, notably against Watford and Everton, but Sunday's performance against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final felt like the nadir. United supporters will be hoping it gets no worse, especially with a Champions League place up for grabs, and a potential third place finish.
De Gea found his technique getting criticised by Mark Bosnich - a two-time flop at United - on Monday, but he only had himself to blame for going inexplicably soft at repelling a low drive from Mason Mount in that 3-1 semi defeat.
The Spaniard's mistake was the most glaring and it has seen Harry Maguire (own goal and all-round poor game) and Victor Lindelof (switched off again to allow Oliver Giroud to score) avoid most of the flak from fans and the media.
On the latest episode The Football Spin, host Paddy McKenna discussed the De Gea situation with Dion Fanning and Nooruddean Choudry. The goalkeeper's troubles, Cloudry believes, track back to warm-up games for the 2018 World Cup and exacerbated by one Cristiano Ronaldo.
"De Gea is not the player he was," states Choudry, "which at one point was the best goalkeeper in the world. He was. There was a period when it was Manuel Neuer and De Gea who were accepted as the two best goalkeepers in the world... for some reason, it's all gone to shit since then."
"Ideally, you do want goalkeepers who can play the ball out from the back more, but if De Gea was as good as he was, that would be a moot point. He was incredible. I can't stress that enough. He was the best in the world and there were times when United were being talked about as a one-man team. That man was their goalkeeper. He was their Player of the Year three times in a row.
"And let's not pretend he was Shay Given. He didn't have his feet nailed to the goal-line - he was able to come out for crosses, he was good with his feet.
"Somebody asked me was he the Massimo Taibi of our generation, and he's obviously not, but I made the comparison to Fernando Torres. A lot of people assumed it was a flippant joke but here's another player who was genuinely world-class and one of the best in the world, without a doubt. Not through a major injury or age, but for some reason he just lost it...
"It seems like the same thing has happened to De Gea and it is hard to say why. If you did have to pin-point one moment, he was still world-class and amazing up to the 2017/18 season but he didn't have the greatest World Cup. If you remember, Ronaldo scored that goal where De Gea made that massive fumble. Maybe Ronaldo, in some way, broke him. From that point, he's not been the same goalkeeper."
Ronaldo scored a hat-trick against De Gea's Spain in the group stages of that World Cup, including one horrendous fumble that was similar to his ricket against Chelsea.
Fanning remains unconvinced that Solskjaer is the manager to lead United back to the top of the footballing pile in England, and Europe. He doubts that the Norwegian has the same managerial nous, and grit, of the likes of Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola and put forward a bold suggestion.
"We suggested [on our last show] that maybe Marcelo Bielsa may not be at Leeds United next season. What if Manchester United decided, this summer, 'Our next manager is going to be Marcelo Bielsa. We're going to go for him. Ole, you've taken this club as far as you can - FA Cup semi final. We fired Louis van Gaal for winning the FA Cup. You've got no chance. And here is Bielsa'.
"Surely every Manchester United fan would applaud this? The greatest coup. Imagine, not since the day Howard Wilkinson rang up Alex Ferguson to ask him if he might be able to buy Denis Irwin and somehow ended the phone call having sold him Eric Cantona. Not since that day would there be a more amazing act of shithousery as making Marcelo Bielsa the Manchester United manager."
In all likelihood, barring a late implosion and another season resigned to Europa League football, Solskjaer will remain on for the 2020/21 season.
The United boss will be looking to recruit some new players before next season kicks off but he has the option of keeping hold of Dean Henderson, currently out on loan with Sheffield United, to battle De Gea for the No.1 slot.
One can see the United board keeping faith with him heading int the next season. Perhaps Bielsa is worth keeping in mind, though, even if it is for shithousery alone.
You can listen to The Football Spin on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, or Spotify.