In Defence Of David de Gea


TIF Article 6 - de GeaFrom the moment he arrived at Old Trafford from Atletico Madrid for £18.9M, the spotlight has been well and truly fixed on David de Gea. He rose to prominence in 2007 at the age of 17 as he helped Spain to win the Under 17 European Championship. Following a series of high-profile errors by then number one Sergio Asenjo, he was given an opportunity in the first team and never looked back. He went on to star as Atletico won the Europa League and European Super Cup in 2010 before embarking on his Mancunian adventure.

De Gea was bought by Alex Ferguson as an immediate replacement to the recently retired and much-heralded Edwin van der Sar. People raised their eyebrows at the Scot bringing in such a young and relatively inexperienced goalkeeper to replace the Dutchman. But there was solid reasoning behind the purchase. Following Peter Schmeichel’s departure from Old Trafford in 2000 Ferguson attempted again and again to replace him with experienced and, for the most part, reputable goalkeepers. There was the French World Cup winner Fabien Barthez, Aston Villa’s Australian number one Mark Bosnich, the, ahem, unforgettable Italian Massimo Taibi, Roy Carroll and a host of others. Van der Sar eventually proved a great purchase, but he’d already been playing in the Premier League for a number of seasons with Fulham.

You can see how by bringing in de Gea at a young age, Ferguson might have felt he could help nurture and mould the player so that his education as a goalkeeper came in the Premier League. Throwing young players in at the deep end is a long held tradtion at Old Trafford, but it’s much easier to do so when it comes to an outfield player rather than a goalkeeper. The scrutiny on goalkeepers in top-class football is so high that every spill, every fumble, every single moment of hesitation is analysed on to death on television and in print. As a result, a level of performance that would be considered unrealistic for outfield players is expected week in, week out from goalkeepers. This is acceptable and understandable to a point, what with them being the last line of defence. However, when it comes to young players and in particular young goalkeepers, it is and unrealistic expectation.

By their very nature young players are unpredictable and experimental; a welcome and exciting trait for a winger, not so much for a goalkeeper at one of the biggest clubs in the world. Dea Gea is an example of this. Countless times since his arrival he has shown he is willing to try the unconventional to keep the ball out, whether that be with his feet or with an acrobatic arch of the back and a tip over the bar, such as he did in keeping out a free kick from Chelsea’s Juan Mata late-on during United 3-2 victory at Stamford Bridge earlier this season. On the other hand, he’s also displayed unpredictability and susceptibility in the box, especially when dealing with high balls.

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