Manchester United are facing a real goalkeeping dilemma - particularly given David De Gea's excellent display against Real Madrid in the Champions league.

De Gea is still learning the art of goalkeeping and is most definitely a talented keeper, especially as a shot-stopper, though at times he has been susceptible to crosses. The argument has to be whether United are prepared to give the youngster time to develop. 

United may have been alerted by the form of Asmir Begovic at Stoke, and the signing by Stoke of Jack Butland in the January transfer window. It will be tough to keep both keepers happy next season if they remain.

Because, if one criticism can be directed at Sir Alex Ferguson, it has to be his failure to find world class goalkeepers throughout his Manchester United reign. The only exceptions have been Peter Schmeichel and Edwin Van Der Sar who have been truly world class. They had the knack of making crucial saves at crucial times in games - particularly when not called upon for long periods.

Signings such as Massimo Taibi, Ricardo and Roy Carroll have not made the grade and others, such as Tim Howard, have only achieved success at so-called lesser clubs where scrutiny of performance is much less. At United every mistake, particularly by a goalkeeper, is magnified ten-fold.

Goalkeepers tend to have longer careers and do not usually peak or mature until their late twenties or early thirties. With De Gea being so young United must be tempted to be patient with the Spaniard. United's tendency to leak goals this season will not help this argument but this has not necessarily been the fault of the goalkeeper.

De Gea has not been blessed with a settled defence after a catalogue of injuries throughout the season. The absence of first-choice centre-half partnership Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand has certainly hindered defensive stability.

De Gea may have to work hard to build his strength up during the summer in order to combat the physicality of the Premier League but he has the ingredients to be an exceptional goalkeeper at club and international level. Patience may be the key for United and their followers.

Ferguson will not want his judgement questioned again and may want to keep the faith in the young Spaniard who is very highly rated in his home country. I get the impression that a whole host of clubs will be queuing up to take the youngster off their hands.

Great goalkeepers are very hard to find, Arsene Wenger has had similar issues at Arsenal, and perhaps United are better off standing by their current number one and concentrating on developing the areas of his game that he needs to work on. His fantastic finger-tip save at Madrid from Fabio Coentrao, and his general shot stopping, indicates he has very good potential and, to me, United must stand by their man despite temptations to look elsewhere.


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