For Anders Lindegaard, his ankle injury in late January came at the worst possible time.
The injury turned out to be good news for his rival, who turned in a series of impressive displays, beginning with a stunning last minute save from Juan Mata in a 3-3 draw at Chelsea.
De Gea kept a series of clean sheets and started to look like the goalkeeper United hoped he would be, and almost helped United to the title.
Lindegaard recovered from his injury to make Denmark's Euro 2012 squad, and will be raring to go for pre-season.
Can he dislodge De Gea? That has to be his aim and he has been given a helping hand thanks to the Spaniard's call-up to his country's Olympic squad.
De Gea will miss the core of United's pre-season thanks to the tournament, and it gives Lindegaard a chance to stake his claim.
The Dane's impressive displays on United's tour of America last season earned praise, and Sir Alex Ferguson started him in the club's first Champions League game of last season away at Benfica as a result of his trust in him.
Lindegaard, 28, is seven years De Gea's senior, and kept a number of clean sheets in his performances for United last season, which led to him usurping his more expensive rival as number one.
Many believe that Sir Alex Ferguson's indecision and chopping and changing - which applied to the whole defence not just the goalkeepers - harmed United last season, doing little for the stability of the backline, and new arrival De Gea's confidence levels.
After settling on a winning formula for much of the end of last season, De Gea's Olympic call-up has taken United back to their dilemma.
Ben Amos will feature in pre-season too, but expect Lindegaard to take advantage of his chance. It will give United a big decision when De Gea comes back, if Lindegaard is playing well enough, it will be hard for Ferguson to drop him.
And then it's game on. It's good to have competition in goal, better two impressive 'keepers than two poor ones, but the selection headache looks to be a running story through the start of the season and beyond.
Who should be United's number one?
Who should be United's number one
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