The life of a goalkeeper can often be a lonely one. After all, If you make a mistake as an outfield player, although you will be criticised, you can hide among your fellow teammates to an extent. However when you’re between the sticks and you make a costly error, there is very little escape, in particular if it results in the side dropping points.
David de Gea was close to completing one of his best performances in a Manchester United shirt, until his timid punch in the dying minutes of their game at Tottenham which cost his side three points and blew the title race open again. This isn’t the first mistake the young Spaniard has made in what has been a relatively inconsistent start to life at Old Trafford since his arrival in 2011.
Many have called for the man who cost in the region of £17million to be replaced already, despite the belief that he was one of the best young keepers in Europe when he was signed. I however disagree that he should be axed so soon regardless of his latest error.
At 22-years-old, he is still extremely young for a goalkeeper considering the majority play into their late 30’s. He still has a lot of maturing to do and has shown enough quality to suggest that he deserves a longer crack at the whip. Even yesterday, his performance was actually very good up until the error at the end, and people are quick to dismiss the fact he made several impressive saves to keep United ahead in the first place.
It is a slightly fickle view by many that a new goalkeeper can be signed, and United’s problems in that position will be solved. Is there really anybody that can come in and guarantee they will be any better? Unless a Casillas or a Neuer are on the agenda, this would be a pointless move in this moment in time.
The kind of names being linked with a switch to the club are Pepe Reina and Asmir Begovic. Reina has struggled a bit himself at Liverpool of late and looks to be on a downward spiral in his career and while Begovic has done very well for Stoke, making the transition to play for one of Europe’s elite is a different kettle of fish.
It takes a certain mentality to play for a club like Manchester United, one that not everyone has. We saw how many keepers Sir Alex Ferguson went through before finding a suitable replacement for Peter Schmeichel, in the shape of Edwin Van Der Sar. Ben Foster and Tim Howard are examples of those who struggled with the pressure of being United’s number one, but have gone on to be very solid and consistent performers currently for West Brom and Everton respectively.
Don’t get me wrong, De Gea himself may not possess the mentality needed, only time will tell. However I feel it is beginning to be embedded in him and he is starting to look more confident. His main flaws remain his ability to command the area and his aerial strength when coming for crosses, but as a general shot stopper he is excellent.
Although the whole ‘time to adapt’ excuse can seem rather cliched, it can’t be forgotten that he came from Spain and it does take time to get used to a new league. He was brought up on a game that has more focus on passing through teams, isn’t as direct and he would have no doubt had less crosses to deal with.
So far this season he has definitely improved in his general play in comparison to his first season. The ever changing back line in front of him, also without the presence of influential captain Nemanja Vidic until recently, wouldn’t have helped him either. I think he has been rotated too often with Anders Lindegaard as well as Ferguson has struggled to make a decision on the two, both often being axed after making costly errors. Consistency is key and I think the United chief must stick with De Gea in the next game and in my opinion give him the vote of confidence he deserves.
While I understand how important a consistent goalkeeper is and he can’t be allowed season after season without showing any improvement, I feel his second season is too early to decide that he isn’t good enough.
While his errors could cost the side this season, I believe that by sticking with him, United will reap the rewards in the future.