It was one of the trending topics for days in the build-up to the 34th edition of the African Cup of Nations currently ongoing in The Ivory Coast when it was revealed that Manchester United plan to hold on to Andre Onana up until his country’s opening Afcon match.
The discussion continued and divided opinion till the moment he flew a private jet that cost his club about $100,000 to get to Abidjan for the Afcon tournament.
The 27-year old even created more buzz after learning it was his cousin, Fabric Ondoa, not him, that will man the sticks for Cameroon’s opening game; and that he has been given the day off after his 5,000 mile journey from Manchester to the West African nation, and his name wasn’t on the match day squad entirely.
The former Ajax goal tender finally had his day in the sun, but it was one to forget, as he was helpless to prevent the Indomitable Lions from succumbing to a 3-1 defeat to a far more superior breed of lions, the ferocious Teranga Lions from Senegal.
The ex Inter man could have done better in the build-up to the first goal as his poor handling of the ball in his box still put it back into danger zone where Ismaila Sarr pounced on it to fire a deflected strike past him.
The Cameroon defence are to blame for the second goal by Habib Djallo, but Onana could have done better to prevent Sadio Mane’s feeble effort from sneaking past him as the defending champions cemented their status as Africa’s finest side.
The question is, if this is all Andre Onana had to offer, why did his country’s football handlers went all out to bring him back into the fold, especially, after how he was unceremoniously kicked out of their World Cup squad?
It begs the question because, it’s not like he has been in top form ever since his big money move from Inter Milan to Manchester United at the beginning of the season, making so many errors that cost The Red Devils precious points in both the Uefa Champions League and the English Premier League.
A lot has been said about his ball retention and how his ability to play with his feet sets the template for his various teams to progress forward with the ball. And so, these aforementioned strengths which aided in the capturing of 3 Eredivisie titles with Ajax, Coppa Italia success at Inter, including reaching the Uefa Champions League final last season gets him so much credit than his shot stopping abilities that earned him about 8 clean sheets at The Nerazzurri during his solitary season at the club.
A €50 million, 5-year deal to Manchester United materialized at the beginning of the season based on his ball playing ability, as insisted upon by United boss, Erik Ten Hag, who worked with him at the Johan Cryuff Arena.
Yet, a second union between the duo hasn’t quite clicked as expected, due to high profile errors from the former Samuel Eto’o Academy graduate, which has led to both criticisms and mockery for both manager and goalkeeper during the course of the season.
It therefore didn’t come as a surprise when news filtered in that Onana has been booted out of Cameroon’s camp during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, following disagreements with coach Rigobert Song over his much hyped playing style and coaching tactics of Song. This led to the premature retirement of the goalkeeper from the National Team.
This development paved the way for his cousin, Fabric Ondoa to stand between the sticks for the 4-time African Champions as they navigated their way through 5 Afcon Qualification matches (as well as the last two warm up games before the Nations Cup), with Onana then recalled back into the fold for the final game in September of last year, a 3-0 win against Burundi.
It was Fabric Ondoa who stood in once again for the 1-1 draw against Guinea in their Afcon opener, as Onana chose to be at Old Trafford until Cameroon’s match day.
Now that he’s back and both brothers have been tested in the tournament with varying results, one wonders what will be going through Rigobert Song’s head, entering the final group stage game, where nothing short of a victory over The Gambia will send them back to Yaoundé empty handed.