Since his arrival to Old Trafford in 2011, David de Gea has found not much more but the scepticism that replacing Edwin Van der Sar can naturally rouse. Two seasons with highs and lows in the Premier League and the constant feeling that Manchester United fans and the club chiefs are not sure that the £18million was a good investment has dogged him somewhat. Maybe the timing was not the best, but his skills and potential are convincing Sir Alex Ferguson that, despite not being executed at the right time, it was a wise decision.
The main problem for the Spaniard is that he arrived at United with the club urging to cover the 6 foot 6 sized gap that the giant Dutchman left when he retired. Only after Van der Sar hung up his gloves at the age of 40 – the Red Devils started looking for a successor and noticed a skinny youngster that was impressing in La Liga with Atletico de Madrid.
Admitting that the position of goalkeeper doesn’t leave much margin for a progressive transition between players, everything would have been far less traumatic for both parts – De Gea and United – if the club would have planned ahead and bought the keeper earlier. Simply one season getting to know the league, the club, the country, and shadowing one of the best goalies of the last two decades would have helped the lad. Instead, he arrived as the first-choice keeper, with a huge investment to pay off and an unfair level of responsibility for a 20-year-old.
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And, of course, he made mistakes. Mistakes that added more pressure on him, as criticism over his signing started flourishing just after making a dubious debut in the Community Shield against Manchester City. Those errors, a mixture between inexperience and nerves, eventually showed an uncommon maturity for a player of his age, as he stayed aside of debates and only tried to improve his game.
His second season at United has also been difficult for the Spanish international. Ferguson rotated De Gea and Lindegaard for a few games at the early stage of the season until the Scot eventually gave De Gea the starter label. Since then, rumours of the possibility of United searching for a new goalkeeper have continuously been on every transfer gossip column, with the figure of Asmir Begovic as the main threat to the Spaniard’s continuity at Old Trafford’s goal.
De Gea, once again, sidestepped the controversy and worked to gain Ferguson’s confidence, who seems to have finally chosen the Spaniard as his long term stopper according to recent statements, where he highlights the great pace the stopper has matured at this season, predicting a better version of him in the next one.
The stability the starlet has had in the last couple of months have brought stunning performances and six consecutive league clean sheets for De Gea, whose work has been rewarded with the Manchester United Fans’ Player of the Month award in the last two months. Curiously enough, the stopper is the player that has won the award more times (4) since he arrived at the club.
It cannot be denied he has a lot to learn and he still makes mistakes, but they usually respond to the natural lack of experience a goalkeeper of his age has, rather than lack of potential.
He has good reflexes, shows strong personality, learns from mistakes and is doing it all at the age of 22. There are not many reasons left to think he will not be among the best goalkeepers in the world in the very near future. It’s just simply impossible to instantly replace a keeper that has been at the top during 21 years when you are only 19.
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