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The André Onana conundrum – does dropping him fix Man United’s defensive problem?



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It has been a conflicting few days for Manchester United goalkeeper André Onana.

From his Superman hands at Goodison Park on Sunday to keep a clean sheet despite several huge chances leaked, to his kryptonite being found in Istanbul on Wednesday, André Onana has gone from hero to zero within Manchester United‘s fanbase.

The one constant in these two games, though, has been the chances United have leaked, which has been a theme of United’s season. In the Premier League, Erik ten Hag‘s side have conceded 16 goals, just the fifth lowest in the league, but have allowed 21.2 expected goals against them – lying thirteenth in the league in this statistic.

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In the Champions League, United have kept just one clean sheet and, in their other four games, conceded 14 goals. Onana has been at fault for a number of these, making a few errors, but the point remains that United are giving their opponents far too many opportunities to score.

So this begs the question: Does dropping André Onana really fix Manchester United’s defensive problems?

Look, Onana has been really poor in the Champions League. His errors are a large part of the reason United are, barring exceptional circumstances, probably getting knocked out in the group stages where they really should have qualified.

But replace Onana with another goalkeeper and whilst they may not make some of the errors he made, they are still having far more work to do than you ever want your goalkeeper to have to do at the highest level of football.

Onana, this season, has faced more shots on target than all bar six Premier League goalkeepers. Only Sheffield United’s Wes Foderingham has made more saves, and Onana has the best save percentage of any goalkeeper in the league. Bar a couple of blunders, he has largely been one of the best goalkeepers in the league.

In Europe, just three teams have faced more shots on target than Manchester United, and just four have allowed more expected goals against them. Onana’s errors may be the focus, and they should be highlighted, but the fundamental issue remains that Manchester United allow far too many chances against them wherever they are, and this is a problem no matter who the goalkeeper is.

United’s issues this season have been covered extensively by UtdDistrict. The build-up and general approach in possession have been problematic, as have the demands on players out of possession – a direct result of United’s flawed pressing tactics.

Onana, in many ways, has been a victim of these collective issues. His own performance must improve drastically, of course, but he was signed to be the foundation of United’s new-look buildup. Instead, he has been asked to look like he is at a driving range rather than a football pitch. United’s high-risk approach with the ball is not negated by a compact press, so the team are constantly facing transitions – naturally a struggle to deal with when there is so much space left – and the Cameroonian is being forced to act.

Simply putting another goalkeeper in goal doesn’t fix this.

Altay Bayındır may stop more of the cheap goals that Onana is letting in at present, it may be worth giving him some minutes, but he would merely be a piece of paper to cover the crack rather than the sealant. That responsibility lies with Erik ten Hag.