De Gea: Performances Making Journo’s Eat Their Words

By on October 19, 2011

It’s amazing how someone – Journalists in particular – can change perspectives and opinions in such a short space of time. It seems like only yesterday that the pitchforks were out for De Gea with every little slip. Every minor error or uncertainty was analysed.

He didn’t fill his defenders with confidence understandably so and it took time especially with the language barrier but it seems De Gea is beginning to show glimpses of the potential and talent Ferguson saw in him when he opted to select him as Edwin Van Der Sar’s successor.

Football is a funny game. It can fill us with excitement and has a way of rewarding the good guys but can also be such a cruel cruel fallacy to others. It didn’t make for easy viewing watching a 20 year old Spaniard in a new country struggling to come to grips with the English Premier League not to mention replacing such a monumental figure between the sticks.

He started out disastrously in the Community Shield. He was blamed for both Manchester City goals (unfairly with the first scored by Joleon Lescott) and subjected to some very unpleasant headlines. Thankfully he’s not fluent English yet!

Criticism was always on the cards for the young man even Peter Schmeichel, arguably the best goalkeeper of all time, was written off in his first few games as a Manchester United player. Although bad starts can be washed away it was not always the case lest we remember dear ol’ Massimo Taibi who Ferguson flogged back to Italy after only a season in the Premier League with disastrous displays.

The nickname ‘Van Der Gea’ looked a bleak one to our former Dutch goalkeeper, after his first game at The Hawthorns after a team Shane Long shot slipped through his fingertips to give West Brom an equalizer in embarrassing circumstances. Sadly enough the Spaniard had a solid game before the incident making terrific saves in particular from Somen Tchoyi.

He didn’t gain much protection throughout and West Brom smartly targeted him but as Ferguson pointed out it was a great experience for the young man he left him with a traditional ‘’Welcome to England’’ with a pat on the back.

Games against Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea were further evidence that things were getting better for him with a heroic penalty save from Robin van Persie (albeit a poor penalty) in the 8-2 drubbing of Arsenal with the score at 1-0 it proved to be such a key moment in the game before United ran riot.

The fact that journalists did write De Gea off after such a short span of time is something quite extraordinary given Torres form at Chelsea and Rooney’s previous form last season for both club and country. The term ‘’form is temporary class is permanent’’ is a phrase many fail to comply to.

Patrick Barclay of the Times wrote of De Gea:

‘’How on earth could Ferguson and all his millions of goalkeeping scouts… is Tony Cotton still there? Whoever. He’s had Alan Hodgkinson over the years. How on earth could they have watched this boy week in week out and then signed him for the first time. I just don’t know.’’

James Ducker of the Times wrote:

‘’De Gea looks like a kid who won a competition to play in goal for Manchester United.’’

Of course there were a majority of journalists who suggested De Gea would come good in particular, Guillem Balague who said:

“People doubting David De Gea? Seriously? It will be a feast of eaten words at the end of the season. De Gea is not just good. He is extraordinary.”

Of course the Manchester United fans have rallied around him and there has been an air of unusual bias around the most simplest of saves from De Gea but that’s the type of confidence he needed. His team-mates have come out and spoke out about their young shot stopper with support. Rio Ferdinand said of De Gea:

“The game against Stoke [three weeks ago] was a pivotal moment for him. There was a lot of pressure on him there in terms of people expecting things to go wrong because of the size of the opponents and how Stoke put pressure on the goalkeeper. He dealt with that game brilliantly and it was huge for him confidence-wise. He has just got better and better from there.”

Ferdinand was indeed right. Games at Stoke and Bolton looked to be places where people thought De Gea would struggle with being bullied by the aerial threat and physicality of both sides but coped well. Furthermore he made two unbelievable saves at the Britannia from Jonathan Walters and first Andy Wilkinson where he produced phenomenal reflexes to push his fierce drive onto the crossbar.

The cauldron of Anfield is an atmosphere that is not one for the faint hearted and it is here when De Gea really showed he can handle the big stage. He had crosses to deal with, saves to make and be on his toes from the numerous counter attacks from Liverpool but the young man showed he had the composure to deal with all Kenny’s men threw at him.

In a few weeks the tune has changed. Opposing players have stopped peppering him with hopeful long-distance shots because they realise now it is a futile exercise. There were no cries of “dodgy keeper” from the Kop, just long, anguished cries as he kept out everything bar the one moment when Ryan Giggs broke from the wall and Steven Gerrard scored with a free-kick through the gap when in fact De Gea had no chance.

When Jordan Henderson attempted a beautiful chip over him towards the end De Gea leaped and palmed it out thwarting the young Englishman from snatching a fourth successive Anfield win. Towards the end while Liverpool bombarded the Manchester United goalmouth with attack after attack they must have wondered what they had to do to score spurning numerous opportunities.

Here was a day when the rivalry between Merseyside and Manchester sank to an unexpected new low, with accusations of racist insults from Suarez to Evra on the pitch. But amidst all the allegations and counter-allegations after the match, there was also the sight of Pepe Reina, Liverpool’s goalkeeper, embracing De Gea in the Anfield corridors. Reina said of De Gea that day:

“He made a couple of fantastic saves; it shows the potential of Spanish goalkeepers and we are very proud there are now two Spanish lads playing for Liverpool and Manchester United. He will have poor performances, like all of us, but he will have a lot of good ones as well. It is about finding consistency, but he will do that because he is a talent.”

The ability to be a Manchester United keeper ensures having nothing to do for 89 minutes and having to make a vital save on the 90th minute. This is what sets apart all the top keepers. Ferdinand continued about the Spaniard:

“The difference with clubs like us and others is that goalkeepers for other clubs are always involved. Here he is not involved for a long time and then – bang – he has to make a quick save. That is what sets the top keepers apart.’’

Jonny Evans partnered Ferdinand in front of De Gea at Anfield had even more praise to head on his goalkeeper:

“He is probably one of the best shot-stoppers I have seen at such a young age. His kicking is excellent. He is very slight but he has an unbelievable spring on him. He gets down low to shots. He is very quick on his feet.”

United’s scorer on the day Javier Hernandez had the final say, praising De Gea even more:

“He is an unbelievable player,’’ said the Mexican. “He is only 20. He could play for 20 more years if he wants.”

De Gea is slowly but surely proving his worth and whilst there are still challenges ahead for him, we should all be feeling alot more confident in his ability now, feeling more confident in his ability that if he does have the odd set-back or two that he’ll bounce back immediately.

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