Last season couldn’t have been easy for Manchester United newboy David De Gea. Following a huge £17million deal in the summer he started the season with a wobbly performance against Manchester City in the curtain raising Community Shield game. He struggled to come off his line for Lescott’s opener; then he failed to deal with a long range Edin Dzeko strike that doubled City’s lead. his season went on an up and down, bumpy road of excellent peaks and quite bewildering lows from there including magnificent performances against Chelsea, Stoke and Athletic Bilbao to befuddled and clumsy turn outs against Blackburn and West Brom.
It culminated with the Spaniard being dropped or ‘rested’ whichever way you looked at it. The most expensive goalkeeper in British history was watching from the stands as a Dane signed for less than a quarter of that stood in his position.
All the while the number 1 jersey he had fought hard to own at former side Atletico Madrid was now adopted by a loan player from Chelsea called Thibaut Courtois, his fans had forgotten about him by now with the Belgians assured performances at Estadio Vicente Calderon.
So this season is a huge season for the Spaniard, toward the end of last season he had definitely improved but he does still struggle with certain aspects of his game.
His skinny frame make him uneasy off his line in the physical English Premier league, with the ability most teams have from deadball situations this is a weakness that can’t be belittled. His catching appears good but a propensity to attempt punching the ball, in the traditional Spanish way, often fails him.
However he is also potentially one of the most agile goalkeepers in the league with an ability to reach the far corners of his goal with the simplest of springs. It seems an incredibly normal achievement but see how many times Rob Green just can’t get up to the corner.
His agility is aided and abetted by his sharp reflexes and his shot stopping abilities have never been questioned. With the highest save per shot ratio in the league last season at 77.9%, the stats don’t lie.
His distribution skills are also exemplary; with a passing ability most centre midfielders would kill for he is a modern keeper for the modern game and is on a steep but necessary learning curve toward real success.
But this season he cannot get away with the ‘learning curve’ excuses for silly and costly mistakes. The loss to Blackburn was a terrible one, largely the Spaniard’s fault, a win in that game and United may have potentially won the league last season. David will surely not want to join Massimo Taibi, Mark Bosnich and Roy Carroll on the Man United keeper flops roll call.
This season is the one where David really needs to step up to the plate and after a year he may be beginning to grab a firm grasp of the English language, as communication is such an important factor in most of his frailties.
All in all this season is huge for the young United keeper, and with the two Manchester sides looking close again, De Gea’s form could prove pivotal.
Here is a look at one of his best United moments, a sublime save against Chelsea last season?
image: © James Boyes