He's big, he's bad, he's Spanish Dave...Added by Philip Meese on 07 Oct 2014 20:36
By Frank Mead, Editor
This isn't some reaction to a fantastic last 5 minutes of our recent game against Everton. David De Gea has been making saves like that for years, and with some fans that has gone largely unnoticed, probably because they instantly think back to his first 18 months at United.
It's safe to say David De Gea did not have the easiest of starts to his career at Old Trafford. After arriving from Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2011, I dont think even he realised what a tough couple of years awaited him.
Naturally, because we had just seen Edwin Van Der Sar retire, and De Gea wasn't yet the finished article, making a few rookie mistakes (after all, at 19 years of age he was practically a veteran) a few United fans were getting on his back. He impressed me straight away, but obviously he had a lot to learn. While he was already a great shot stopper, it was clear he needed to bulk up, and toughen up. When I watched the Captain America film, the line "Jesus, someone get that kid a sandwich!" instantly made me think of De Gea. He was a skinny kid, who didn't speak the language and had a lot to learn. Yet this natural, raw talent was there.
Even in his first season, when he was under heavy criticism, he saved United quite a few times, none more so than at Stamford Bridge in February 2012, when United battled from 3 goals down to earn a draw against Chelsea. He pulled off a couple of late saves from long range shots. And he showed this on a regular basis, even back then, but what he didn't have was a commanding presence in the penalty area, a proper grasp of the English game (and language), and the body of a teenager (not surprising when you consider that he actually WAS still a teenager)
I remember watching one United game in the pub one afternoon, this was in his second season, and I was sat near a bunch of regulars who were slagging the lad off. I said to them that De Gea would be the best keeper in Europe within 5 years. They sneered at that comment. Apparently, one of these people was an ex United goalkeeper coach - although I note he isn't any more. Maybe he was one of the ones that recommended to us gems such as Carroll and Taibi. But they said I was off my head. I wonder what their opnion is now.
Towards the end of that second season, as Robin van Persie's goals powered United towards their 20th title, De Gea started to settle down. It was clear he had been putting in some serious hours in the gym, was more confident (probably through the experience he had gained in the Premier League) and commanded his penalty area better. It's no coincidence that while the rest of the team fell apart after Fergie had departed, De Gea won United's Player of the Season award. After all, can any other player look at what they did last season, and say "I was world class from start to finish"? Had it not been for De Gea, some of those beatings we received would have been much more severe.
So while he divided opnion when he first arrived, it's fair to say that most of the ones saying negative things about him are the type of "fans" who only see what's right in front of them, but never look at the bigger picture. When I said he will be the best goalkeeper in Europe within 5 years, it was for a good reason. That reason is that the flaws in his game were the type of thing that top players usually erase from their game as they become more experienced, but you cannot learn, or teach, ability like his.
Peter Schmeichel didn't come to Old Trafford until he was 27 years old, and he had a few teething problems when he first arrived, and spent 8 years at United. Assuming that De Gea isn't tempted to return to La Liga at some point, then by the time he is 27 he will already have spent 8 years here. Just imagine how good he will be then.
So, with all that in mind, is there any other goalkeeper you would swap him for? I cant think of one. If he isn't the best in the world at this moment, I dont think it will be long before he is. I just hope that he stays at United so we can witness it first hand.
So can he be better than Schmeichel,who is still, in my opinion, the best goalkeeper ever? It's hard to say at this moment, but he's got a better chance than most.