David De Gea, Boyhood To Manhood In 18 Months!

I remember when it was first announced that we were going to sign David De Gea from Atletico Madrid for around £20 odd million and I think it was around the time of Gary Neville’s testimonial just days before an all important Champions league final with Barcelona at the home of football in Wembley stadium.

Guillem Balague, a Spanish journalist had tweeted out that a deal was in place and that we were going to sign him and like most transfers that are being or have been confirmed I got excited at the prospect of a new player coming in and playing at the theatre of dreams.

David had very big boots to fill as the only keeper we had signed since the departure of Peter Schmeichel in 1999 was retiring. Edwin van der Sar had been fantastic for us since joining in 2005 and it was a real shame when he called time on his playing career because like they say great Goalkeepers win you matches and he was at heart for a lot of victories and trophy successes and especially the Champions league final in Moscow against Chelsea where he saved Nicolas Anelka’s penalty to hand us our third European cup.

There was a lot of talk of whether David would be good enough to fill such big boots of arguably one of the greatest players the Premier League, Champions League and world football has ever seen and early on signs of anxiety and difficulty accepting one of the biggest jobs in world football were evident for David as 2 mistakes in his first 2 games against Manchester City in the Community Shield and the first game of the season away to West Brom got people wondering just what Sir Alez Ferguson was playing at and why he didn’t sign an established goalkeeper who had experience.

Failure to be commanding whilst coming off of his line to collect an incoming free kick led to City’s first goal and a shot with not much conviction behind it from Shane Long trickling underneath his body and through his legs bought in some unwanted and unnecessary criticism for David which didn’t help a youngster like himself, playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world at all.

There was one point during the season where I just couldn’t accept an error from David and that was away to Liverpool in the FA Cup where yet again he wasn’t commanding and that led to Andy Carroll setting up Daniel Agger’s goal which gave our arch rivals the lead and with our recent record down there at that point we didn’t need to give them a hand out.

We ended up losing 2-1 and knocked out of the FA Cup yet again and De Gea was dropped for the next game against Stoke at home. Anders Lindergaard had picked up an injury and he was playing like our number one goalkeeper at that point and he was out for the rest of the season which had me and I am sure so many of other United fans absolutely gutted because mistake prone De Gea was going to have fill in on the weekend against Chelsea away of all the teams and the places to play with your out of form goalkeeper I was dreading it.

I think that game should be remembered as the game that was the making of David. The game that he stepped up to the plate and really did deliver. It was arguably his best performance in a United shirt to that day and he looked like a world class keeper in the making. We did go 3-0 down with 50 minutes on the clock but I didn’t fault David for any of the goals we had conceded.

I will always remember three amazing saves he made in that game and especially the world class save from Juan Mata in the dying minutes of the game from a free kick which was going in and would have handed Chelsea the three points. He stopped an absolute pile driver of a shot hit by Michael Essien which went flying straight at him but still dealt with superbly and also handled a long range Gary Cahill drive magnificently. He looked like a player who had a point to prove as he did and boy did he prove it. That game set him up for a strong finish to the season and stood him in good sted for the season after.

We had a big fight on our hands this season like we do every season but it was made even bigger by the events that happened in Eastlands on the final day of last season and we needed our squad to be at its best and this season David has been just that. Like I said about van der Sar earlier on, great goalkeepers win you matches and he has done but the games in which I have been the most impressed in De Gea have been in draws or a defeats.

His game of the season and this is arguably one of the best individual performances I have seen from a player, not just for United but in the time I have been watching football altogether was against Real Madrid in the 1st leg of the all important Champions League tie.

Real went through over the two legs but they really could and should have sealed it on the night of the 1st leg and they would have if it wasn’t for the world class performance from the one and only De Gea. He made an enormous number of quality saves and the ones that spring to mind are his save within the first 6 minutes from a Fabio Coentrao shot which he sent onto the post and importantly not into the back of our net.

Sami Khedira fired a shot in the second half and it took a deflection off of Michael Carrick and we have all seen just how cruel deflections can be but David saved superbly and made sure the score remained level. My favourite save from him was the save from Coentrao again who was at our back post unmarked and sent the ball goalwards but De Gea produced one of the saves of the season as he saved with his feet which he usually does and kept us in the tie with a fighting chance for the second leg. If people had any doubts about him then that performance was a real coming of age display for him and I was proud of the lad that night, I really was.

Tottenham away was another difficult game for us and yet another fantastic display from David which was becoming a regular occurance from our shot stopper this season and although he may have been at fault for Spurs’ equaliser he was the main reason we didn’t lose by five or even six goals that day and the reason we came away with a point which pushed us one point closer to the league title we were desperately fighting to get our hands back on.

He made a number of saves that day but the two which stick out are the save from Bale which took a deflection off of one of our players and again De Gea did amazingly well to stop us from conceding a goal and dealing yet again with another difficult situation. The best save on that day though was from Clint Dempsey who had infiltrated our penalty area with absolute ease and I must admit my heart was in my mouth when I saw him through one on one with David and I was hoping, praying for the best and he delivered. What a save. Against all odds he pulled off another class stop, yet again with his feet.

At the age off 22, David has won the Europa League, the UEFA Super Cup and the Premier League. In five years I can see him being the worlds best Goalkeeper as I feel he is already in the top 10, maybe the top 5 ‘keepers and with the team he plays for and the rich tradition and history he will go on to win a lot more and become an even bigger part of the team than he already is right now as well as being the worlds very best Goalkeeper.

He came to Old Trafford a 20 year old boy and right now after winning the league title for the first and I am sure not the last time he has developed into a man and a fantastic Goalkeeper.

By Darren Hassennally @DarrenHazza