Is blind faith keeping him in the Old Trafford good books?

David De Gea’s erratic form since his move to Manchester United has drawn worried glances from around Old Trafford. For a player that Sir Alex Ferguson was convinced to part with the best part of £18.9m for, it’s fair to say that his performances do not befit a player of his price-tag. However, at what point will the fans begin to turn on one of their own? At what point is future potential disregarded as an excuse for his performances in the present?

Arsene Wenger’s almost near constant obsession with planning for the future has meant that he’s been routinely dealt his supporters indignation over his decision-making and his choices have begun to be openly questioned for the first time in his reign. They argue that focussing on the future tends to leave a gap in quality in the present – a sound argument since they are now without a trophy in seven years.

The tactic that the majority of Manchester United fans have taken over the now worrying David De Gea situation has been to back the goalkeeper’s undoubted potential. This level of support is unusually uncommon nowadays and it has to be applauded. The modern-day football fan has a penchant for demanding instant success, even more so if the player commands a lofty price-tag like the one in question. But the terraces have stuck by their man so far.

What I would ask, though, is where is the tipping point? When does frustration boil out over and into outright disdain? When is De Gea’s name on the teamsheet greeted with a chorus of sighs rather than cheers?

De Gea is definitely a promising goalkeeper. The price-tag can be considered a little on the large side considering his relative lack of experience. He still has less than 100 competitive league games under his belt.

The main problem derives from De Gea’s lack of presence in the box. He is still getting to grips with the language barrier which in turn affects the way he commands his box and vocalises his orders.
He has literally no presence. Andreas Lindegaard, while not quite being a goalkeeper with the same attributes has bundles of the stuff. He’s a calm and steady hand. Edwin Van Der Sar wasn’t ever a great shot-stopper, but he rarely ever made a mistake and that then makes those in front of you play better and with more confidence.

We’ve seen with the rapid decline of Petr Cech in recent years at Chelsea that a command of your box and the faith of your back four is of paramount importance. The Cech of 2005 was an imperious, calming influence. The Cech os 2012 is a player wracked by indecision and paralysed by doubt – due to the severe nature of his head injury, he will no longer put his body on the line which results in him flapping at crosses and making a hash of corners.

De Gea is a man shorn of all confidence he once had. Ferguson’s chopping and changing policy, originally conceived to protect the 21-year old after his calamitous performance against Blackburn, has only served to have the exact adverse effect.

It’s a catch-22 situation. De Gea needs games to get out of his current slump, but every time he plays at the moment; he appears to make an almost game-changing cock-up of huge proportions. We are often told that there are no easy games in the Premier League, which is a complete falsity, but for De Gea’s sake, that much is definitely true at the moment. In the race for the title alongside bitter rivals Manchester City, can the side afford to play De Gea week-in, week-out? The answer is far from clear.

Toeing the party line is the name of the game at the moment. The Manchester United players, staff and manager are permanently on-message, being somewhat reminiscent of Soviet newspaper Pravda.

Their arguments are clear – he is a player of potential, he requires time to settle and he will come good eventually. He’ll be worth the money that they paid for him, he’ll will stay at Old Trafford for an extended period of time and go onto become of the best goalkeeper in the world. The likelihood of all of the above coming true now is far from certain and at present, looks nothing more than wishful thinking.

Would a loan move be worth considering in the dying embers of the transfer window? De Gea simply won’t be able to display his talent with his form under such constant microscopic inspection. Every minor error has been poured over in huge detail. This is not an environment for such a young man to regain his confidence.

The club’s faith in the youngster is indeed admirable, as is the fans reluctance to give up on Van Der Sar’s heir apparent. Nevertheless, something worth considering is at what point do they begin to truly judge and when does their patience run out? What will it take for the fans to say that enough is enough?

You can follow me on Twitter @JamesMcManus1

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