Gary Lim: Stay or go, de Gea's United career may be over
David de Gea will have to repair relationship with van Gaal and fans as he bears brunt of transfer fiasco
This wasn't quite a case of the runaway bride, but David de Gea will undoubtedly feel like the jilted groom.
Even as he joins up with Spain's training camp outside of Madrid, the capital must be feeling a whole lot farther away than it actually is.
By now, most would have heard that he is at the centre of one of the most ridiculous botched-up transfers.
De Gea's move from Manchester United to Real Madrid fell through on deadline day because of miscommunication and a whole host of other reasons and, if you actually believe both clubs' sides of the story, then everybody else is to be blamed except themselves.
But it is the 24-year-old goalkeeper who bears the brunt of the fiasco.
All throughout pre-season, his head has been turned by Real's interest. Turning it back will require some finesse.
Unfortunately, United manager Louis van Gaal isn't of the mollycoddling breed.
A season is a long time to run down a contract on the bench, and de Gea faces a tough fight on multiple fronts to reclaim his spot in the first 11.
As history has shown, van Gaal doesn't take kindly to players who dare cross him.
Lucio, sold by the then-Bayern Munich coach in 2009, had this to say about the man afterwards: "Van Gaal hurt me more than anyone else in football."
De Gea's relationship with van Gaal and goalkeeping coach Frans Hoek is, at best, strained after he expressed - according to the manager - his wish to sit out United's games.
United's best player for the past two campaigns ended up training with the reserves.
The fans will need convincing, too, that his heart is still with United.
It's accepted that he won't perform a U-turn and sign the £200,000 ($432,800)-a-week, five-year contract extension that has stood since the beginning of this year.
The expectation is that de Gea will leave as a free agent in about a year's time anyway.
After working so hard for months to secure a switch to the Galaticos, de Gea's motives, even if he regains his place in the team, will be questioned and scrutinised.
Take the case of John Stones, who tried and failed to engineer a transfer to Chelsea.
If the level of abuse dished out by Everton fans to a young Englishman is any indication, then it's only going to be worse for a foreign footballer who's usually viewed through the lens of suspicion.
Then there is the problem of ironing out the differences with his own.
The law of nature dictates that loyalty shall be rewarded, and disloyalty deserves punishment.
If de Gea, who hasn't played a single game for United this term, somehow wins his place back in the first 11, what will his United teammates - those who showed their commitment - think?
De Gea is said to be "distraught" that the transfer fell apart so dramatically, so late.
But this is just the beginning. The repercussions are just around the corner.
His national team coach Vicente del Bosque has already said that it will be "very difficult for him" to retain a regular spot in his side if he doesn't play regularly for his club.
When he returns to Manchester, he must be prepared to face the music.
War of words
The war of words between Old Trafford and the Bernabeu escalated on Tuesday, as Manchester United robustly defended their conduct over David de Gea's botched transfer and pointed the finger at Real Madrid.
The day after de Gea's move to the Spanish capital was called off, United and Real blamed each other for the collapse.
Real fired the first shot, issuing a statement early in the afternoon which claimed delays at United's end had scuppered a deal worth £29 million ($62.8m) which would have also seen Keylor Navas head to Old Trafford.
In their 443-word statement, Real claimed they had to wait until Monday - deadline day in Spain - to "open any channel of negotiation" with United over de Gea.
-- PHOTOS: AFP, REUTERS
Real claimed that they had to wait over eight hours for United to return the player contracts, which were sent to Old Trafford at 12.39pm BST after a deal had been struck, according to the Spanish club.
Real added that United did not reach agreement with Navas (below) over his part of the deal until seven minutes before the window shut.
The result, they claim, was that United did not upload the details into Fifa's Transfer Matching System (TMS) until 11pm exactly.
That meant Real could not complete their part of the process and that is why the deal collapsed, according to the Spanish club.
United, however, insist the botched transfer was all Real's fault.
In their statement, United angrily rejected the idea that they left it until the last minute to decide to sell de Gea.
United also claimed that Real made several errors in the last couple of hours of the window. They claim they sent the transfer documents for both players to Madrid at 8.42pm and received them back at 10.32pm, without de Gea's "signatory page".
United also claimed Real made "major changes" to the documentation 20 minutes before the deadline, which "immediately put the deals at risk", according to the 20-time English champions.
United insisted they had still not received the requisite documentation for Navas' transfer at this point either.
Finally, United claimed they uploaded the relevant documents at 10.58pm, two minutes before the deadline.
The United statement added: "It is our understanding that the deals couldn't happen because: Real Madrid didn't upload David's documents onto TMS (or) the Spanish league in time."
Senior sources at Old Trafford think Real president Florentino Perez may have had second thoughts about the deal, after the club's fans expressed their dismay at the news that Navas was being used as part of the deal to lure de Gea to the Bernabeu.
In a poll of over 55,000 Real Madrid fans on the Spanish newspaper website Marca, nearly 89 per cent said they did not agree with the idea of swopping de Gea for Navas, who starred in the club's 5-0 over Real Betis last Saturday.
There is a feeling at United that the poll may have persuaded Perez to drag his heels over the transfer and stick with Navas instead.
United have played hardball with Real all summer. They rejected two offers for de Gea before accepting a third on Monday afternoon.
They initially wanted either Sergio Ramos or a fee of £32.6m in return for the goalkeeper.
Senior figures at Old Trafford insist they have no regrets about that stance, even though they will now almost certainly lose their star goalkeeper on a free next summer.
Until then, de Gea will remain a United player. It is hard to see Real coming back for the Spaniard in January, particularly when they can sign the player for nothing six months later.
United are awash with cash and do not mind taking a financial hit on a player who they think would have been worth well over £70m if he were tied down to a long-term deal.
De Gea is currently training with the Spain national side ahead of their internationals against Slovakia and Macedonia.
Next week, he will return to Manchester and sources at the club insist the Spaniard's relationship with manager Louis van Gaal or the board is not beyond repair.
The club have noted that de Gea has acted like a professional throughout this saga. He has turned up at matches and watched from the stands in his club suit, and has entered the dressing room for post-match team talks.
Van Gaal must be satisfied that de Gea is able to focus properly for him to return to the starting 11, however.
United's next match takes place at home to Liverpool on Sept 12.
- PA Sport.
'De Gea must play to make Spain's Euro squad'
Spain manager Vicente del Bosque admits it will be difficult for him to select David de Gea in his European Championship squad if the goalkeeper remains on the sidelines at Manchester United.
The 24-year-old is in del Bosque's plans for this weekend's Euro 2016 qualifiers against Slovakia and Macedonia, but could struggle to reach France if his absence from the United first team continues.
De Gea has yet to make appearance for Louis van Gaal's side this season.
When asked if he would counsel the goalkeeper about his situation in Manchester, del Bosque said: "No, but if I do feel the need to talk to him about it, then I will say something.
"He needs to be professional and move on from this episode.
"I hope that he starts playing again and is happy. If he plays well, we can include him. Otherwise, if he doesn't play, it will be very difficult for him to come (to the Euros)."
- PA Sport.