The start to the career in England of David De Gea, is a highly contentious area that many have strong points about. Manchester United’s new number 1 has come in with more than his fair share of criticism. Is he solely to blame for the reason that though only by two points the Champions of England trail their money mad city rivals? I present to you the Book of David: Chapter 1 – The Beginning, let the reading commence!
David De Gea was bought from Atletico Madrid in the summer for 17 million, a fee that I believe may increase depending on clauses. Viewers of La Liga would have already been alerted to his superb shot stopping capabilities from his teenage years. With the money spent by Sir Alex Ferguson the blueprint was for him to be the number 1 choice for many years to come. Bar homesickness he could actually be their first choice for 10 –15 years and that is no exaggeration given the lifespan of goalkeepers.
His first game in goal for his new club came against none other then their ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City in the Charity Shield, the curtain raiser for what has already been a crazy Premiership season. Here is where the trouble started. United went 2-0 down and he was looked at for both goals, the first a header by Joleon Lescott, the second a drive outside the box by Edin Dzeko. On the first goal by Lescott, De Gea seemed to make a rather casual attempt to dive to save the header. When you look at the goal again though the defences inability to clear the freekick meant that it would’ve a taken something special to stop him scoring gathering how close Lescott was allowed to get to the goal. Dzeko’s strike was more where United fans saw cause for concern, about 25 yards or so from goal he let loose a strike that though not right in the corner of the goal and closer to the centre of the goal & De Gea failed to keep it out. Though United went on to win the game 3-2, the fans were already alert to the possible vulnerability of their expensive new keeper.
The first league game of the season would arguably and be where De Gea’s biggest crime lay. Against West Brom he somehow let in a rather tame effort by Roy Hodgson’s new signing Shane Long. How De Gea let the ball creep in I don’t think God knows. Again though the Red Devils went on to win the game 2-1. At the end of August in the 8-2 win against Arsenal, he saved a penalty to begin some kind of road to redemption. Though the scoreline was emphatic there was a minority of fans who were not happy with manner of the two goals that United conceded, on another day De Gea probably would have kept out Theo Walcott’s goal, but the defence must be looked at for the way they carved open on both goals. Arsenal also made & missed one or two other decent chances in this game.
In October when United were thrashed 6-1 at home to their city rivals, the only goal you can say De Gea could’ve done better on was maybe David Silva’s goal and that is at a push as Silva was quite composed in placing his finish. The defending in this game by United before and after the sending off of Evans wasn’t good enough, the fact that out of the 7 goals scored in the game Darren Fletcher scored probably the best goal for United shows how City cut them open time and time again leaving De Gea much too exposed to a clinical set of individuals.
The 3-2 defeat at the end of December at home to Blackburn was where interesting talking points occurred. After coming back form 2-0 down United conceded a soft goal from a corner by Grant Hanley. De Gea was ripped apart for not dealing with the cross into the box. Hanley headed and then at the second attempt forced the ball into the goal. Now as much as De Gea is to blame, surely again the defenders can be questioned. Not one of the United players in the box made a resounding attempt to get the ball out of the danger area, the fact Hanley was allowed two bites at the cherry shows this. Now this goal stems from two things. De Gea is arriving from Spain where goalkeepers are from a culture where they tend to punch the ball more often than not then come out to catch it. Also United’s defenders are naturally still used to Edwin Van Der Sar coming out to catch the ball clearing any impending danger. The team was spoilt as there aren’t too many in the business better than Van Der Sar at commanding the penalty area. There has to be some adapting done by the defence and De Gea, how long it will take remains to be seen as in the recent FA Cup defeat to Liverpool a similar goal to the one at Blackburn was scored by Daniel Agger for Liverpool’s opening goal. De Gea didn’t know whether to come or go, the defenders seemed to only be concentrating on Andy Carroll who was altering De Gea’s view and before you knew it Agger was heading in for 1-0. Now this game is one I could certainly not back De Gea in, he was poor from start to finish. His uncertainty didn’t help things on a day when Liverpool seemed more hungry than United. He kicked poorly and his concentration overall seemed elsewhere.
Keepers supposedly don’t peak until they are 28 and De Gea has only a few months ago turned 21, his come to a new country and will be expanding on any English he spoke before. I pitched these same things to a close friend who is a United supporter, he said well how do you explain the success of Iker Casillas at Real Madrid & Gianluigi Buffon at Juventus for instance. Both these keepers became their teams number 1 choice at ages similar if not younger than De Gea. The main significance I pointed out is that they stayed within their own country. We cannot take for granted how hard it is to move to a new country at a young age. Add to that the expectation levels of a club that has been highly successful for almost 20 years and taking over from a former world-class keeper in Van Der Sar.
Indeed if we look at stats some of my backing for De Gea at certain times becomes slightly more obvious. Earlier on in the season United had allowed the most amount of shots in the league. This statistic may have slightly changed more recently but what is more current is that at courtesy of ‘Opta’ we know that up to a few days ago at 77% De Gea has the 4th best saves-to-shots percentage in the Premiership. Though we’ve all seen the apparent mistakes, fans especially should look at the fact that against Stoke and Liverpool in the league his saves consolidated a point in both games. Especially against Liverpool when saves from Kuyt & Suarez amongst others bought the team an undeserved share of the spoils. In November’s league game against Swansea, United finished strong and could’ve added more goals but before then De Gea made 1 or 2 key saves to keep them in the lead. His contribution in these games shouldn’t be overlooked because if these points were dropped United could be even closer to if not under Tottenham in the table. Add to that his performance on the weekend against Chelsea, after United brought the game back to 3 all, his two saves at the end made sure of the point for United. His save from Juan Mata’s freekick is the one that is continuously being talked of, but the save from Gary Cahill’s thunderbolt was possibly just as good.
Now, up until the 3-0 defeat against Newcastle at the start of January second choice Anders Lindegaard had actually not conceded in the league in the games he had played in causing fans to urge for him to be made first choice. Lindegaard will actually turn 28 in April. With him being bought before De Gea and the high price paid for De Gea one has to think about how much confidence Ferguson had in him overall. Lindegaard has looked quite capable this season when called upon but again you could argue that outside of the Newcastle game & Champions League at Benfica that he has on paper faced the easier opposition to De Gea, hence possibly having more of a chance to keep a clean sheet.
After United’s defeat to Liverpool in the FA Cup, in the post match analysis former player Roy Keane pointed out the keeper position has kind of been a problem for United since Peter Schmeichel retired bar Van Der Sar of course. His probably right, Fabien Barthez was good for the most part, but in important games made errors. Massimo Taibi, Roy Carroll, Tim Howard, and more recently Tomasz Kuszczak have all failed to live up to the expectations over the years. Mark Bosnich had okay spells but was going to be able to carry the load, for instance his failure to kick well didn’t mesh well with the United faithful. Only Howard has bought any level of respect back to himself by being quite solid ever since David Moyes signed him for Everton.
Should Fergie have looked elsewhere for a keeper, one with more experience maybe. Sebatien Frey now at Genoa maybe, Maarten Stekelenbrg depated Ajax to join Roma in the summer so could have been pursued. Hugo Lloris at Lyon is a wonderful keeper and for the price they spent on De Gea surely could have been an option. They were for a long time linked strongly to Inter keeper Julio Cesar who would have been a great buy.
Fergie though chose De Gea as he was thinking in terms of longevity. De Gea will have to mature extremely that is inevitable and Fergie will have known this before he bought him. Ben Amos’ name has also come to the forefront now as Lindegaard is injured and Fergie must set himself on which keeper he will use or it could have an adverse effect on United’s season. One thing for sure is the defence has to improve if they are going to catch Manchester City at the top of the Premiership. Balls into the box have to be defended better and the positioning at times overall needs to better. De Gea needs time and Fergie said this himself when speaking after the Chelsea game on Sunday, but his changing of keeper can’t be easy for anyone.
It will be interesting to see how things develop in the race for the number 1 choice at Old Trafford but if Fergie backs De Gea 100% his actions not just his words should show this. He needs to stop covering up ‘dropping’ him with ‘resting’ him. I myself don’t think his been as bad as made out, the defenders need to take responsibility also. Without his saves in certain games they could be worse off. Here ends the reading from the Book of David.
Daniel Dwamena (@DubulDee)
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