When Manchester United's David de Gea was named in the 2012/13 PFA Team of the Year, it meant that he could finally lay claim to being the Premier League's best goalkeeper.

The 22-year-old had been recognised and honoured for his excellent performances in between the sticks at Old Trafford over the course of the title-winning campaign - as well as his significant improvement.

The days of being labelled not good enough to play for the Red Devils and the time spent being rotated with Anders Lindegaard were now but a long-distant memory.

De Gea was living up to his billing as one of Europe's most promising young goalkeepers - and Manchester United's decision to pay £17.8m to Atletico Madrid for the Madrid-born shot-stopper was paying dividends.

De Gea, who hasn't yet been capped up the Spanish national team but is widely expected to be Iker Casillas's long-term replacement, may not turn 23 until November but it's safe to say that he's currently the most outstanding 'keeper in the Premier League - and one of the best in the world, too.

On current form - and taking age and potential into consideration - it could even be argued that De Gea is now the joint second best goalkeeper in the world alongside Thibaut Courtois, who has spent the last two-and-a-bit seasons on loan at Atletico Madrid from Chelsea, behind Bayern Munich's exceptional Manuel Neuer.

After improving his strength and, crucially, his courage at set-pieces, De Gea now stands head and shoulders above his rivals. That magnificent - and not to mention vital - save he pulled off against Sunderland last weekend, which the legendary Peter Schmeichel described as one of the best stops in Premier League history, would any other 'keeper in England have been able to pull that off? Not likely.

After the last 18 months, Manchester United wouldn't swap him for Joe Hart, Hugo Lloris, Asmir Begovic or Simon Mignolet.

They wouldn't even swap him for Chelsea's Petr Cech, who is nine years older than De Gea, if the opportunity arose because they know exactly how much potential he possesses.

Sir Alex Ferguson and his coaching staff spotted it several years ago, and their decision to act swiftly means David Moyes now has one less problem to worry about.

That's presuming, of course, that the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona don't come knocking in the near future - but, unfortunately for United and Moyes, they inevitably will.

#Petr Cech
#Premier League
#Manchester United
#Joe Hart
#David de Gea
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