Former Manchester United goalkeeping coach Eric Steele has revealed the extent to which David de Gea struggled to adapt to life in England.
The Spaniard looked out of his depth after sealing an £18 million move from Atletico Madrid in 2011. De Gea poor form was such a concern for Sir Alex Ferguson that reserve 'keeper Anders Lindegaard was selected ahead of him.
After a tricky start to life in the Premier League, De Gea managed to improve his form and was named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year last season. Steele says the turnaround was not down to luck, but through hard work from himself and Manchester United coaches.
Steele went as far to say that De Gea "hated" Manchester United's training techniques and described his first six months at Carrington as "horrendous. It is a far cry from the man who stunned fans with several world-class saves against Everton last weekend.
"His first six months were horrendous," he told the United We Stand fanzine.
"We worked with him on and off the field to make him more powerful. We changed his lifestyle.
"He would finish training and want to go home. When I told him to come back in the afternoon he'd ask, 'Why?'"
Having moved at the tender age of 20-years-old, the changes to both the lifestyle and the climate threatened to derail De Gea's Manchester United career before it had even got underway. Steele admits De Gea struggled to stop siestas and also could not understand their nutritional programme.
He continued: "There were lifestyle issues. He'd sleep two or three times a day. He'd have his main meal late at night. We pushed protein drinks on him straight after training.
"We physically made him drink. We had him in the gym a lot. He hated it. They don't do the gym in Spain as much. We needed to build his core strength."
Throughout all his troubles, Steele says De Gea was never fazed by the thought of playing in front of a packed Old Trafford. It is one quality that makes De Gea a special talent.
He said: "But he has calmness, composure and inner strength. Nothing fazes him.
"Playing in front of 76,000? No problem. Very few possess that."
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