One of the things that struck Manchester United officials about David De Gea back in 2015 in the wake of the collapse of his proposed move to Real Madrid was his level-headedness.
Louis van Gaal had omitted De Gea from the starting XI for the first six games of the campaign with a transfer to Real looming, and much of the talk at the time centred on what sort of goalkeeper United would be left with after the deal fell through. Would his concentration be affected? Would his form suffer? Had his head been irretrievably turned?
Van Gaal had fuelled some of the concerns by claiming the Spaniard had not wanted to play in the season opener against Tottenham, but De Gea returned to the team against Liverpool and looked like he had never been away.
His form would not falter thereafter en route to a third successive player of the year award, and it was commonplace that season to hear well placed figures at Old Trafford marvelling at the icy cool and unflappable nature of their No 1 and his unerring ability to compartmentalise off-field distractions.
Almost four years on, the picture is somewhat different. Embroiled in a protracted stand-off with United and about to enter the final 12 months of his contract, the latest uncertainty over De Gea’s future is proving a distraction that he appears to be having a much tougher time handling.