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Andre Onana is not as terrible as many claim he is

Cameroonian goalkeeper Andre Onana completed a €50.2 million transfer to former English

Andre Onana is not as terrible as many claim he is

Premier League champions Manchester United last summer after an amazing one-year stay at Italian giants Inter Milan.

The 28-year-old shot-stopper joined Inter Milan in 2022 after serving a nine-month football ban due to doping. Onana had already shown his ability at his previous club Ajax. Thus, he arrived in Milan with a lot of fanfare.

That decision turned out to be the right one, as Onana helped the club to the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana title. He also helped Inter Milan to the UEFA Champions League final, where they suffered a painful 1-0 loss to champions Manchester City.

A poor start to life at Old Trafford

Moving on to United, Onana was expected to hit the ground running, especially as the club were looking to improve on their third-place finish last season. His ability to make accurate long passes was a weapon that Erik Ten Hag could use to devastating effect, especially because they had just signed Rasmus Hojlund from Atalanta, who was great at hold-up play. There was also Marcus Rashford, who would be looking to use his speed to run behind opposition defences.

Unfortunately, all those expectations crashed in the first few weeks. Onana committed an error on his European debut for Manchester United when they played Bayern Munich. Leroy Sane played a quick one-two with Harry Kane on the edge of the box before firing a shot at goal. It wasn’t a powerful strike and seemed to be easily within the goalkeeper’s reach, but Onana contrived to fumble it in. He would go on to concede three more times as Bayern triumphed in a seven-goal thriller. But he made only one error. One would imagine that if not for his error, the game would have ended square.

Also, against Galatasaray in the Champions League, Manchester United were let down by their goalkeeper, as Onana committed a blunder. Wilfred Zaha scored against the Red Devils and, although the defenders were to blame for their lax performance, Onana could have done way better. In the Champions League, the Cameroonian still threw clangers against Copenhagen. Eventually, they were knocked out of the competition after finishing fourth in their group.

Meanwhile, in the Premier League, Onana still struggled, especially in the first part of the season. Onana’s mistakes proved to be costly for the Red Devils on many occasions. However, Onana seemed to have settled in since the turn of the year. Ten Hag also helped out on many occasions, doggedly defending the La Masia Academy product despite his mistakes and criticisms from fans and the press.

Ten Hag’s support and change in fortunes

“If you analyse it well, then you see he (Onana) is the second-best goalkeeper in the Premier League based on stats, so his expected defending goals is the second best in the Premier League,” Ten Hag said in December.

“He’s doing well. Also, he knows that in the Champions League, he makes some mistakes but all over you see the first five months he is doing particularly well.”

Even Onana has been mentally strong, admitting his mistakes but promising improvements.

Those improvements did come, as this year, the Cameroon international has been one of the best players at Old Trafford. He settled in nicely and began to show glimpses of what he was brought in for.

In fact, according to MEN, Onana is one of the few players deemed indispensable by Manchester United, alongside young talents Kobbie Mainoo, Alejandro Garnacho, and Rasmus Hojlund, emphasizing his vital role within the team. Onana might have conceded a lot of goals but that did not stop Man United tickets from selling out in the just-concluded campaign.

The Red Devils had one of the worst defensive records in the traditional top six. And as they say, “A goalkeeper is only as good as his defense”. Ten Hag used at least 18 different centre-back partnerships in the Premier League last season majorly because of injuries. In fact, in Manchester United’s 36th game of the season at Old Trafford which they lost to Arsenal, the only goal of the game was scored by Leandro Trossard. And that goal was caused by Casemiro, who had to play as a defender because only one senior defender was available for the fixture. Casemiro failed to communicate with Johnny Evans, thereby keeping Trossard onside in the run-up to the goal.

Manchester United conceded 58 goals in the Premier League, but that was after they faced 200 shots on target- the highest in the club’s history. Stats show that Onana saved 72.77% of the shots he faced in the Premier League. In total, the Cameroonian made 147 saves in the Premier League. And in comparison, the only traditional top-six goalkeeper in the top ten is Tottenham goalie Guglielmo Vicario, who made 109 saves. For context Arsenal goalkeeper David Raya, who won the Golden Glove, faced just 68 shots throughout the entire Premier League campaign.

So, in essence, although Onana shipped in goals, it was because he had a poor defence in front of him. Also, the overall poor performance of the team could have affected Onana negatively.

Because of Manchester United’s struggles, Onana still needs time to prove himself. Last season was a horror show by the club’s standards. The major reason for this was injuries. But if Ten Hag remains on the job or Manchester United appoint a coach, who would re-work the team and make them functional, Onana could shine.

Manchester United have to sort out their defense and midfield to ensure less penetration invariably reducing the number of shots that they face. If they can sort out their issues, then Onana can be judged rightly.

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