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The rise of David de Gea

Roll back to the 7th of August, 2011. Yes, it was the day United did what many people doubted at half-time, come back from 2 goals down to win the Community Shield against our bitter rivals. But the problem was that instead of praising United’s resilience and fighting spirit, the press smelled blood. Sadly, that blood was Spanish blood, blood of a then 20 year old David de Gea.

He was heavily criticized for Dzeko’s goal – although he was at fault – and even for City’s first. That was the stepping stone up until February for the press’ slating. Journalists’ eyes were focused on one man during games, as they waited to trounce on a single mistake. Patrick Barclay went as far as criticizing United’s scouts when talking about De Gea after only a few games. He said: “The goalie is like a jelly. He isn’t physically capable. He’s Heurelho Gomes without the shot-stopping. I can’t see what he’s got. That’s what he is. I have to say, I’m looking forward to Man United Stoke, when is it? How on earth could Ferguson and all his millions of goalkeeping [scouts]… is Tony Coton still there? Whoever. He’s had Alan Hodgkinson over the years. How on earth they could have watched this boy, week in week out, and then signed him for the first team. I just don’t know.”

It was the same story for months and on December 31st, they got what they wanted. One of De Gea’s mistakes finally cost United the points. Forget his terrific performances in the league away at Stoke, Liverpool, and Everton or at home to Chelsea and Newcastle, he had to be slated for his mistakes instead of getting praise for his match winning/saving saves. The press claimed victorious as De Gea was dropped for Lindegaard.

The Danish stopper had secured the #1 spot, before his injury of course, as he kept David watching on from the sidelines. Journalists were bizarrely claiming whether it was the end for De Gea at United and questioning his ability whilst all along it was just Ferguson’s superb man-management skills at work. Although it must be said, Ferguson committed a mistake by thrusting a shaken and obvious confidence-lacking De Gea – who at that point had been sitting out 4 consecutive games – in the FA Cup game at Anfield. His performance during the game was filled with moments of nervousness and a young lad who has bereft of confidence. Many people, myself included, thought that that was it for De Gea for the season; that this season was going to be labeled as one where he needed to adjust to the English game and life style.

Boy did he prove us wrong! Following Lindegaard’s injury, it was now De Gea’s chance to show his much applauded strong mentality at his former club and prove to all the critics why Ferguson bought him in the first place. De Gea was in goal for 8 games running, the longest he has had this season, starting at our epic game at Chelsea to last weekend’s 2-0 home win over West Brom. He couldn’t be faulted for any of the goals conceded and produced performances worthy of a MOTM in each game (West Brom and Liverpool put aside as he didn’t have much to do). The potential he had all along was finally showing as he gained confidence by the minute. From saving Mata’s injury time free-kick to give us the point to saving our sorry butts from getting another home bashing against Athletic Club Bilbao, the real David De Gea was on show.

Ferguson must also be applauded for playing his part as De Gea’s spells on the bench were a blessing in disguise. The Spanish stopper said: “The time I spent on the bench, when I was out of the side, that was a time when I could reflect. I could think hard, regroup and start working even harder to come out of that spell. It made me more determined, so when I did get my opportunity back in the side I grabbed it with both hands.” He certainly has grabbed the #1 spot with both hands and cemented his place in the side.

The scary, but extremely positive, thing is that he’s only 21. Keepers tend to reach their peak in their late 20’s or early 30’s so it’s heartwarming to see the potential he has. With so much time on his side, he can only get better from here. Remember, this is only his first year at United and in England. I’ll gladly take another 20 years of the Wolverine-lookalike in our goal.

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