Manuel Neuer's Man Utd masterclass shows why Ferguson preferred him to David de Gea

  • Kobe Tong
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Manuel Neuer is the greatest goalkeeper of the last 10 years. There, I said it.

Now, obviously, that statement is merely this humble writer’s opinion, but I’m inclined to think that the Bayern Munich captain has maintained his world-class form better than his rivals.

Don’t get me wrong, injuries and inconsistency saw him lose his status as the world’s best shot-stopper near the back end of the 2010s, but last season marked his return to the summit.

Neuer: One of goalkeeping’s greatest

And with a treble to show for his triumphant return, I can’t help giving Neuer the nod despite the likes of Gianluigi Buffon, Iker Casillas, Jan Oblak and Marc-André ter Stegen being hot on his tail.

However, regardless of my superlatives about Neuer in general, who would you say has performed the better out of him and David de Gea over the past decade?

That might seem like a random question on paper but in many ways, it’s actually one of the most important as far as goalkeepers are concerned with the two having gone head-to-head in 2011.

That’s because De Gea and Neuer were the frontrunners to replace Edwin van der Sar, who announced his retirement in February of that year, as Manchester United‘s number one goalkeeper.

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Neuer was Ferguson’s first choice

Now, we’re all well aware that De Gea eventually got the gig, earning the backing of goalkeeping coach Eric Steele, but Neuer was actually the preferred choice for Sir Alex Ferguson.

According to the Manchester Evening News, Ferguson explained in 2016: “Eric Steele had been scouting David de Gea for quite a while, but then Neuer came on the scene at Schalke.

“And I think Schalke would’ve been happy if we’d have gone and taken him. So my problem was Eric, because he was adamant that we must take De Gea.

“I said ‘but Eric, the boy Neuer is the complete unit; he’s mature, his physique is unbelievable’, and he says ‘yeah, but in three years’ time, De Gea will be better’. I said ‘that’s a statement’.”

Quit the statement indeed and it’s easy to see why Ferguson might have been favouring Neuer when you consider how incredibly well he played against United that very season.

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Neuer’s Man Utd masterclass

That’s because the Red Devils locked horns with Schalke in the Champions League semi-finals and although Neuer conceded seven goals over the two legs, he still showed his world-class ability.

And it was his performance in Gelsenkirchen that was particularly inspired, no doubt getting Fergie on his feet as much as it did football fans across the world, producing a number of stunning saves.

So, as we toast a glass to Neuer on his 35th birthday, we thought it would make sense to look back on that very performance that summed up why the greatest ever manager respected him so much.

It’s easy to see why Fergie was purring about Neuer during his Schalke days.

Why did De Gea get the nod?

Besides, you can’t help casting your mind back to Peter Schmeichel when you see how the German shot-stopper dominated his penalty area and even whacked out the Danes’ trademark star jump.

But as we all know, it was De Gea who was eventually selected by United and we conveniently snipped Ferguson’s story a little short because a trip to see the Spaniard quickly changed his mind.

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Ferguson continued: “Eric and I went out to watch him (De Gea) against Valencia away, and the things he’d been speaking about – his agility, his confidence, his speed – were evident.

“And Eric had been building a relationship with his parents, and was so adamant, that I had to trust him – and I’m glad I did, because he was right.” Fair play, Sir Alex, fair play.

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