Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United facing a real fight to keep David de Gea from Real Madrid

By James Tait

The battle for David de Gea has started — and history has shown us who the likely winner is. Manchester United are determined to hold on to Real Madrid target De Gea, despite agreeing an 18-month contract with the former Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes last night.

United are maintaining that Valdes has signed on at Old Trafford merely as understudy to De Gea, having been convinced that the 32-year-old — who has not played since sustaining a serious knee injury just over nine months ago — is not a long-term medical risk.

But reports in Spain suggest that the arrival of Valdes is the first act in a familiar drama that is likely to end with De Gea joining the ten-times European champions Real in the summer.

What concerns United the most is that De Gea, 24, has only 18 months left on his current contract — and does not appear to be in a hurry to initiate negotiations over a new one.

Real, having spent heavily on forward players over the last few seasons, are now in the market for a long-term replacement for Iker Casillas, and have dropped enough hints that Spaniard De Gea is the man they want.

United insist they are relaxed about De Gea's future after a first half to the season in which he has established himself as the top keeper in the Premier League and have been more focused on offloading surplus squad members in the past month.

Brazilian midfielder Anderson is a player United are anxious to get off the payroll, while winger Adnan Januzaj may leave on loan to Paris Saint-Germain.

The decision to register Valdes and take him on to the books comes after a two-month analysis of his fitness by United.

Their conviction that he does have a future with them will compound the frustration of Liverpool, who must now count the cost of their indecision over Valdes which led to a reluctance on his part to commit to them.

It is thought the Anfield club wanted to take Valdes on trial. Their indifference is believed to have contributed to an uncertainty on his part about heading for Merseyside.

Though De Gea might be seen as a long-term goalkeeping option at the Bernabeu, Casillas has shown no desire to leave, despite having had to share a first-team place in the past few years.

Casillas was demoted to the bench behind Diego Lopez in La Liga in 2013 but returned to favour with the latter's departure to Milan in August.

The Costa Rican Keylor Navas, who was signed last summer, is now competing with Casillas for a starting place and he played in the 2-0 Copa del Rey defeat against Atletico Madrid last night, though there is no official confirmation from Real that they wish to do battle with United.

Valdes, who suffered anterior cruciate ligament damage in his knee during a La Liga match for Barcelona against Celta Vigo last March, is currently living at the five-star Lowry Hotel in Manchester city centre.

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