Time for De Gea to prove himself

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After a somewhat testing start to his career in England, Saturday will present David De Gea will arguably the biggest challenge he has faced in Manchester United colours.

The Barclays Premier League champions make the short journey to the Reebok Stadium tomorrow evening, to face a Bolton side that will provide a stern examination for United's young goalkeeper.

Although the days of Sam Allardyce are long since gone at Bolton, Owen Coyle's side still retain a physical threat at set-pieces, that counterbalances their free-flowing style during open play.

This is likely to prove a serious problem for De Gea, who hardly fills one with confidence at corners, and will have to try to command his penalty area with the likes of Zat Knight, Gary Cahill and Kevin Davies thundering towards him.

It does, then, offer the 20-year-old 'keeper the opportunity to finally display signs he is worth the £19 million invested in him, although there is the chance even further questions over his ability could be raised come half-past-seven tomorrow night.

The problem for De Gea remains that he has neither established himself as a commanding presence at set-pieces or as an accomplished shot-stopper during his short spell in England.

Edin Dzeko, Shane Long and Theo Walcott have all been beneficiaries from De Gea blunders of differing degrees, which has led United supporters offering unintentionally patronising applause every time the Spaniard handles a shot cleanly.

For every good save, there is fumble, while each confident take is followed by a misjudgement, but De Gea has displayed quality of sorts with his distribution.

Supporters of the hirsute gloveman will point towards the ability he has shown with the ball at his feet, with De Gea possessing far more confidence in these instances than when he is required to cut out a cross.


There is, however, an element of straw clutching going on here. With De Gea's decent footwork the only facet of his game that can currently be commended, pundits including Ray Wilkins have lavished, at times, unnecessary praise when the young man finds a teammate with a relatively straightforward pass.

And, at this moment in time, he is still a long way behind Pepe Reina - and others - when it comes to ball playing custodians.

Due to the nature of the position he is in, De Gea will always attract intense scrutiny and so far, by his own admission, the former Atletico Madrid first-choice has rightfully received criticism.

However, the worry remains as to how well De Gea can handle the barbs should his errors begin to cost United points when the season begins in earnest domestically and on the continent.

United have managed to atone for his mistakes thus far, but he cannot continue to rely on his teammates to get him out of jail. Although it is still early days, it is time for De Gea to step up and prove his worth - and Bolton away is an ideal opportunity to do so.

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