“One day you’re cock of the walk, the next a feather duster.” While it’s never wise to quote directly from Mad Max (or indeed, Piers Morgan who appears to have adopted the moniker for himself), in the case of David De Gea, it appears to particularly hold true.
One stretch of his fingertips from an incredibly well-directed, pinpoint free kick and all was forgotten from De Gea’s chequered past. To be fair, it was a simply sublime save.
De Gea’s shot stopping ability has never been in doubt. When he arrived in England, heralded as the long term successor to Edwin Van der Sar, much was made of the statistic that he had conceded the most amount of goals in La Liga from long distance shots, most Premier League front men took that as a sign to pepper the former Atletico Madrid man from all angles.
While there were some mistakes, he did not crack. By way of comparison, In his 15 games for United thus far, De Gea has made 62 saves, while Pepe Reina has made 57 from his 23 games in the Premier League.
It remains his decision making, and his physicality when it comes to dealing with crosses that is his issue. Perhaps a matter of confidence or just his slender frame that betrays his age, De Gea hasn’t coped well with the rough and tumble of life in England.
Such is the pressure of not only playing for Manchester United but taking up the one role at the club which has taken on a new dimension thanks to the exploits of some extinguished shot-stoppers from years gone by that any mistakes are pounced upon and examined to within an inch of their lives.
He remains as he was before he joined the club – a raw talent - where according to some he has been everything from a waste of money to the next big thing. The stretch he produced to claw out Mata’s effort was extraordinary, a glimpse into just why United paid around £17 million for his services.
That is not to suggest De Gea didn’t warrant the criticism sent his way, something he admitted himself in an interview following his first few starts for the team -it is something he needs to become adept at dealing with. It is an extra qualities keepers must have if they are to play between the sticks at Old Trafford.
But he came through a tough test against Chelsea, just, and now has a foothold upon which he can start to positively thanks to the absence of Anders Lindegaard through injury. Perhaps he can now demonstrate on a regular basis just why his former Atletico colleagues nicknamed him ‘Van der Gea’ because of his likeness to the man he is destined to replace.