David de Gea’s career has been a roller coaster so far, he has had many high and low points since joining Manchester United.
He has had as many critiques as admires. But they forget that he is very young and will learn from mistakes.
In addition to his manager, his team-mates and some of the loyal United supporters he has had backing during his tenure at Old Trafford.
After signing from Athletico Madrid at the start of the 2011-12 season as an £18.9 million replacement for the Dutchman Edwin van der Sar, De Gea has always been under scrutiny.
Right from the time he stepped on the field against rivals Manchester City, he was expected to reach the heights his predecessor had set. All these expectations and he was just 20-years-old when he joined United.
Goalkeepers flourish late and to be fair, De Gea has been exceptional for a keeper of his age. It’s always difficult to hit top form right from the start in the Premier League and more so if you’re coming from a different league. His first competitive game for The Red Devils was against City in the Community Shield.
Although United won the game dramatically, the media focus was on the Spaniard’s mistake.
A long range shot by Edin Dzeko, which should have been saved went past the young Spaniard. In the following game against West Brom, he let in a low tame shot by Shane Long, which further intensified the scrutiny.
The English media have a habit of blowing things out of proportion. Errors from other keepers were overlooked and the focus remained on De Gea.
However, De Gea recovered soon. He put in a number of decent performances in his first season. In the game against Chelsea, he pulled out a number of outstanding saves to deny The Blues. He arguably had the best performance in a United shirt against Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League. He was instrumental in keeping the score respectable by making some exceptional saves. There was no doubting his shot-stopping ability. But his lean frame meant he was never a commanding presence in the box.
He did respond well to the physical approach employed by the teams and often lost out on corners and crosses. He never looked confident coming for the ball and often got bullied by the attackers during corners. He looked rusty on occasions, even while clearing or taking kicks.
The earlier criticism did affect his confidence and it could be seen from his body language. But the important thing was the team and especially the manager always backed him. The save from a Mata free-kick is one of the most important ones he pulled off during his first-season.
There were a number of noteworthy saves in the game at Stamford Bridge as well as the game against Liverpool. Despite all the flak, he ended his first season with the best saves-to-shot ratio in the Premier League.
The 2012-13 season so far has been very good (for the most part). The double save to stop Yaya Toure and David Silva being one of the highlights of the season, until the Real Madrid game, of course.
De Gea showed his true character and quality at The Bernabeu.
He denied their attack with some exceptional saves including an unorthodox kick-save and pushing a shot from Coentrao onto the post. If not earlier, he truly did win the hearts of many with that performance.
What the media and other critics don’t realise is that, De Gea has never had a steady back four to guard him. United have always been hit with injuries at the back and it certainly makes it difficult for the keeper.
It’s not easy to adapt quickly to the physical nature of the Premier League. I personally hate comparisons, but what bothers me is that, in a season where keepers like Joe Hart and Pepe Reina have made some calamitous errors, it’s De Gea who’s constantly in the firing line.
As a fan, it hurts to see one of your players being criticised and bashed upon in the media. What hurts even more is when your own supporters do it. I’ve admired De Gea since his Atletico Madrid days and was delighted when United signed him. I always knew he would take time to adapt and gel into the team.
He has already shown tremendous signs of improvement since he first put on a United jersey. Patience and support is the key. I really want to see him do well and stamp his authority as United’s number 1. He’s taken positive steps towards it. He has not only improved his goal-keeping ability, but as a person he’s matured a lot. He’s let go of his rash decisions and started to put a lot of thinking into his approach towards the game.
The only thing I fear is that - and it’s a known fact - he’ll not stay at United forever. There’ll be a day when he’s nurtured by United into a top-class keeper. He’ll be in his prime and that’s when he would want to go home. Surely Real Madrid and Barcelona will come calling and you really can’t blame him for not taking that opportunity. I just hope that day doesn’t come in the next ten years or so.
It’s not often that you’re excited by such a young keeper, and I don’t want this excitement to turn into disappointment. At 22, David de Gea is one for the future. He’s the current number one for United and will be for years to come. He’ll make mistakes, but he will learn and improve. One thing’s for sure, he’ll never lose the faith and confidence of his supporters.
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