Whilst there were high hopes when we signed David De Gea, negative attitudes from some fans, the press as well as a perceived lack of faith in the young Spaniard by Sir Alex Ferguson mean he is fighting an uphill battle to be seen as a success at Old Trafford.
This season some have claimed Antonio Valencia has suffered a dip in form due to being awarded the #7 shirt. The shirt hasn’t always been worn by superstars but at the same time it is an iconic shirt in football thanks to the likes of Cantona, Beckham, Ronaldo, Best and Robson. It’s wearer will always be scrutinised and the same can be said for Manchester United’s first choice goalkeeper.
Peter Schmeichel – the greatest goalkeeper ever- set an incredibly high standard in his tenure at Old Trafford and no goalkeeper, even the great Edwin Van Der Sar, has been able to escape the Great Dane’s shadow. Van Der Sar made the position his own, but when he retired it was felt someone was about to pick up a similar kind of onus like the number of goalkeepers that were brought in after Schmeichel.
That person was De Gea, and as expected he hasn’t had it easy. And things could be set to get worse if rumours are to be believed.
The implementation of transfer windows has seen a thirst for transfer speculation. Every year there are stories drummed up and repeated by the press and it appears that De Gea will be central to at least 2 of them this January/summer. Like most people, I am sceptical about paper talk but two recurring stories in the press currently involve David De Gea’s position at the club.
Be it the story that Sir Alex is ready to send the goalkeeper back to Madrid, albeit to Real and not Atletico, or the story that Sir Alex is sniffing around the Premier League’s current flavour of the month Asmir Begovic, true or false it appears there is a concerted effort to undermine De Gea’s position at the club.
As he did last season De Gea appears to be winning his battle with Anders Lindegaard for the #1 spot at United (but as we’ve seen this can change at any moment), we are all aware a continuous run of games for United brings out the best in him so the fact he isn’t afforded this enough often works against him.
There are obvious kinks in his game, his weakness at crossing and set pieces is notoriously highlighted by other teams and the press, but at times this season he looks to have shown improvement in dealing with aerial threats. But as much improvement as he appears to have made, he will never be able to work through his issues out if he isn’t given the chance.
So here it stands; 22 is an incredibly young age for a goalkeeper and at 22 De Gea has years to develop. Whilst I don’t expect him to, De Gea could be United’s goalkeeper for the next 20 or so years. Whilst by no means definitive, these early years will have a say as to how he develops as a United’s goalkeeper. We’ve seen enough of him at Old Trafford, as well as for Madrid, to know that he can reach unfathomable levels but he has to be given the chance, because if not he could become the expensive flop that so many think he is, or want him to be.
Sir Alex needs to abandon this current course of action, sharing the position between De Gea and Lindegaard, and make a decision (even if that decision was to make Lindegaard #1 that would benefit the team more than him sharing the role).
If he was to come out and state that De Gea was his number 1 it would curb these stories in the press, no longer would they try to factor other players into an already muddled goalkeeper picture, how could they if Sir Alex has stated that De Gea is his number 1?
A resilient young keeper, De Gea has stated that he doesn’t let what the press say get to him. But undoubtedly their reports and continued scrutiny make his job harder, but he would be free to concentrate on his job with this decision as they would have no non stories to pick at, as they have in an attempt to pave a move to Real Madrid. It would also fill him with confidence knowing that Sir Alex has entrusted him with the role. It did last season, and there are a number of moments where he saved United from peril with saves. De Gea looks near unbeatable when confident, we would be doing ourselves a huge favour.
But the decision needs to be made.
Manchester United will not be selling De Gea or signing Begovic, to do either would be an admittance of defeat only 2 years after taking a leap and bringing him in, something very un-Sir Alex like.
What the future holds for De Gea though is up in the air, the majority of United fans would like to see him as United’s first choice keeper and remain so regardless of mistakes or Lindegaard’s insistance that he didn’t come to Manchester United to pick his nose.
The thing is what we as fans want, what is best for the team and what Sir Alex thinks is best for the team can all be different things, and when it boils down to it 26 years of experience counts for everything. You just hope that in that 26 years, something will lead him to settling with De Gea.