On June 29 2011, we saw the highly anticipated transfer of Atletico Madrid goalkeeper, David de Gea, to Premier League champions Manchester United. United had just witnessed the retirement of their former stopper, Edwin Van der Sar and the world watched with an expectant gaze to see who would step in to the Red Devils’ net.
Fast forward to August 7 2011. Manchester United have just defended their Community Shield with a defiant 3-2 victory over bitter rivals, Manchester City. One player, however, doesn’t celebrate quite like the rest. De Gea’s game was marred after allowing the Citizens to go 2-0 up before halftime, thanks to a duo of goalkeeping errors. Joleon Lescott and Edin Dzeko both capitalized on the youngster’s doubts, as well as forcing the question as to whether or not the 20 year-old is ready for this level of competition.
Exactly one week later and the Spaniard is in the papers for the wrong reasons again, allowing a very saveable Shane Long shot to cross his line on his Premier League debut. His teammates get him off the hook once more, and United battle back once more to earn a 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion.
Looking at these facts, David de Gea certainly has had a rocky start with Manchester United. In the humdrum activity of the Premier League, managers and owners alike want results, and they want them now. These modern times have seen football clubs operated upon more as businesses than simply sporting ventures, and if a chairman or an executive sees one of his charges not performing how they should be, a change is made. Rumours are now circulating that the £18m signing risks losing his place to January signature, Anders Lindegaard, if he doesn’t up his standards swiftly. After only two competitive games, would such a move be justified?
Numerous publications in recent days have pointed out the comparison that Manchester United legend, Peter Schmeichel, also started unfavourably in the English league. There’s no need to go into much detail regarding how successful ‘The Great Dane’ was at Old Trafford, but needless to say, his career was illustrious. De Gea may have let in a few soft goals so far but I suppose that’s the problem with the media and how we focus our attention. As the old saying goes; ‘No news is good news’, and whilst it’s entertaining to see the fall of a superstar, the Spaniard has showed hints of the form that led to his massive price-tag.
Apart from the two goals he conceded against Manchester City two weeks ago, de Gea didn’t actually have a heap of work to do in the match. He was, however, kept on his toes at the Hawthorns. Sure, he may have been lucky Peter Odemwingie wasn’t playing, but any other keeper could have conceded more than just the one goal during the game. The Spanish Under-21 international showed he’s not afraid to get physical, going up for two aerial challenges in the second half, taking an elbow from Shane Long in the process, but getting on with things. He also made a cracking save from a looping Somen Tchoyi effort and kept Paul Scharner at bay even though he was through on goal.
So it’s not all bad for the former Atletico starlet. To answer the titular question, we definitely cannot simply him write off so soon, especially when the player shows us glimpses of impressive football. I also don’t think the Reds can afford to purchase the second most expensive goalkeeper in history, only to relegate him to the bench in favour of a Danish keeper, £15m his inferior.
When we look at the simple figures, the youth has played one Premier League match, and I’m sorry if I sound biased for believing he may need more than 90 minutes to acclimatise to the brutality of the English game. For Manchester United’s sake, I’d like to say that David de Gea is simply a nervous 20 year-old barely out of his teens, and plunged into the frontline of a team that frequently win the most entertaining football league in the world. Sure, he has to emulate the performances of two former Manchester United goalkeepers that are probably some of the best the game has ever seen but hey, someone’s got to do it.