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On the eve of the 2024 FA Cup final, Andre Onana featured in an interview with Gary Neville.

When asked about his thoughts on the upcoming game, he responded convincingly, “We go there to win.”

No one believed this.

With 86 minutes gone in the final, and Manchester United two goals up, Andre Onana looked like the match-winner. His saves behind a compact defense had kept United in the game to that point.

Maybe this was the moment he finally turned the corner—the performance to cover the record-setting disaster of a season at United.

In the very next attacking phase, Jeremy Doku cuts in and shoots, and Onana palms the ball into his own net.


You could hear a pin drop as nervous United fans in the stadium and viewing centres muttered to themselves, “Here we go again…he can’t keep getting away with this!” 

Although this error didn’t end up costing United the trophy, as the game ended 2-1, it summarized Andre Onana’s first full season at the club.

But was it really as bad as the memes and lowlight reels portray? Let’s get into it.

Being a Manchester United goalkeeper

Manchester United has been fortunate to have exceptional goalkeepers, from legends like Peter Schmeichel and Edwin Van der Sar to the remarkable David de Gea. 

Their performances have set lofty standards for the goalkeeping position at Manchester United.

“The Manchester United jersey is heavy.” — Andre Onana.

Legendary shot-stoppers like Fabian Barthez have crumbled under the pressure of the No. 1 jersey at Old Trafford.

So even though the stats might tell you that André Onana has the most saves in the Premier League this season (149), he has failed the eye test so far. 

He lacks that commanding presence of Schmeichel or the elite reflexes of De Gea and Van der Sar. 

And even though De Gea struggled during his first season at Old Trafford, his errors weren’t as egregious and season-defining as Onana’s were.

Why did Manchester United buy Andre Onana?

David de Gea faced criticism for his performances leading up to his exit from the club. By the time he left, United fans were happy to see him go.

In his place came Andre Onana from Inter Milan for close to €51 million. This move received mixed reactions. 

While De Gea had been a reliable goalkeeper for many years, his form declined progressively, ending his remarkable run at Manchester United. 

His uncharacteristic errors and poor ball distribution raised concerns about his suitability for the team, ultimately leading to his departure.

On the other hand, Andre Onana had an impressive season with Inter Milan, reaching the UEFA Champions League final and winning the Serie A. 

His distribution and history working with Erik ten Hag at Ajax reassured Manchester United fans at the time that they had acquired a dependable goalkeeper.

Onana’s Early struggles

There is a harmful cliché in football that African goalkeepers are not reliable in the Premier League. So, from the jump, Andre Onana faced an uphill task while handling the Manchester United factor.

His relatively ‘small’ size was also a topic for fans and critics. He lacked the imposing frame of elite keepers like Courtois or Petr Cech. 

This put him at a disadvantage with aerial balls, as he struggled to command the area and claim loose balls in the air. 

Case in point: He almost hospitalized Sasa Kalajdzic while attempting a last-minute clearance against Wolves. 

However, he compensated for this with his agility, allowing him to make extraordinary saves from time to time. 

Onana’s ball distribution was comparable to that of a world-class midfielder, and he was often seen venturing ahead of his center-backs to get involved in his team’s build-up play. 

However, this confidence seemed to take a hit whenever he lost possession while venturing forward or made the wrong pass. 

Source: Source Brief

During Manchester United’s preseason fixture against RC Lens, Florian Sotoca scored from the halfway line after noticing Onana was out of his goal, leading to mixed reactions from fans.

This set the tone for the season.

Onana in the Champions League

Andre Onana didn’t have time to gather himself after his early struggles before the Champions League came around. 

Without mincing words, Onana singlehandedly eliminated Manchester United from the competition.

Blunders against FC Copenhagen, Bayern Munich, and Galatasaray sank United to the bottom of the group. 

To compound the situation, Onana, who had the best save percentage the season before, turned out to be worse than his predecessor.

His failure to palm shots correctly or being out of position for some strikes led to his team conceding easily saveable goals. 

And the horror show continued for most of the first half of the season, reaching a point of ridicule that United fans couldn’t wait for him to leave for AFCON.

André Onana’s #AFCON2023 Story
byu/UntdFourEver inManchesterUnited

Andre Onana didn’t pull up any trees with Cameroon either. They crashed out of the competition after an abysmal campaign. 

Recent improvements in performances

After the African Nations Cup, his new form was blistering as United racked up good results for a while. 

His saves had become more composed, and his positioning and ball distribution were back to their best, giving the impression that he had begun settling into his new club. 

At some point during this run, United was in a position to set its sights on the league title, albeit unlikely considering the teams they would be up against for the crown. 

With consistency and luck, 4th place was within grasp. However, the chopping and changing in the backline laid the perfect blueprint for a historically awful season with a negative goal difference.

A porous defensive line

Every team relies on its defensive unit to secure clean sheets and make the goalkeeper’s job easier. 

United’s defense has been porous since Onana started his tenure, putting him in uncomfortable positions where there was little he could do to stop goals.

So, is the defense terrible because of a lack of confidence in the keeper—or is it the other way around?

It is worth mentioning that  Manchester United had a series of injuries to their best defensive players, which led Erik Ten Hag to experiment with his backline. 

Source: OptaAnalyst

But when you play with 50 different defensive pairings and face 204 shots, even the most elite keeper is bound to concede some stinkers. 

Onana was undoubtedly doing his best to stop as many shots as possible, and his side conceded scores of shots per game.

Is Andre Onana the answer?

This question will likely elicit diverse opinions from different crowds. A large section of fans want Onana gone already. 

Some of the criticism of Andre Onana is deeply rooted in historical hate. However, his performances do not help even his most ardent supporters.

For the needed style of play, keeping Andre Onana is a resounding “Yes”. Manchester United prefers to have possession of the ball as it allows them more time to launch attacks and create goal-scoring opportunities. 

The success of this style was evident in the FA Cup final when the best centreback pairing of Martinez and Varane played. United’s defense looked unbeatable, save for that blip in the last few minutes of the game.

Andre Onana
byu/dj_waZZa inManchesterUnited

When it comes to pure shot-stopping, the jury is still deliberating on Andre Onana. His positioning and agility need to improve fast.

In a recent interview, Onana expressed that he doesn’t mind facing 20 or 30 shots. That’s a strange thing to say, but one could understand he’s trying not to throw anyone under the bus.

He stated that he is pleased with his teammates’ efforts and acknowledged the sacrifices many of them make for the team.

Whether he is the solution to Manchester United’s goalkeeper issues remains to be seen, but he certainly fits the profile of a promising long-term choice.

Who wrote this?

Ebuka is a tech enthusiast, writer, and eSports guru currently working with a team of daring Africans to revolutionize the writing scene. He enjoys answering questions, brainstorming new ideas, and discussing the future of sports and esports.

Ebuka Agbasi
Ebuka is a tech enthusiast, writer, and eSports guru currently working with a team of daring Africans to revolutionize the writing scene. He enjoys answering questions, brainstorming new ideas, and discussing the future of sports and esports.

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    1 Comment

    1. Nice Read

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