De Gea excels and now comes the grudging respect

“OMG,” extolled BBC pundit Mark Bright on Twitter in August, “Man Utd cannot win the Premier League with de Gea.”

Bright’s deliciously reactionary, and embarrassingly premature assertion, made on the evidence one suspects, of having watched young David de Gea in matches against Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion alone, was not the only knee-jerk response in late summer. Indeed, critics from the blogosphere to broadsheet newspapers rounded on the £18 million Spanish acquisition, varyingly comparing de Gea to the hapless Massimio Taibi, and questioning Sir Alex Ferguson’s sanity in replacing Edwin van der Sar with such a callow youth.

But this was not so much a critique of de Gea’s talent, as an assassination; a player thoroughly defenestrated by a media posse unwilling to entertain realistic mitigation. In the wake of de Gea’s outstanding recent performances, one wonders whether the English media pack will now discover the requisite humility.

de Gea’s critics were not simply intransigents in Bright’s mould, but media commentators of an altogether more studied nature. In the Guardian, for example, long-time United observer Daniel Taylor brought forward the question of dropping de Gea after the Spaniard’s Premier League début against West Brom at the Hawthornes. Similar responses came in most, if not all, Britain’s broadsheets.

“Not every team will be as generous as West Bromwich Albion and there has to be a case for Anders Lindegaard to take over,” argued Taylor.

“The Dane is seven years older than De Gea, has a greater penalty-box presence and, when he played in the United States in pre-season, had the trust of his team-mates. The Premier League can be an unforgiving place and, rightly or wrongly, De Gea has already been identified as a ‘dodgy keeper’.”

Meanwhile, in The Times, de Gea’s self-appointed critic-in-chief, and one-time Fergie biographer, Patrick Barclay described United’s new net-minder as “Heurelho Gomes with less shot-stopping skills.”

“The goalkeeper is like a jelly,” continued Barclay, in The Times‘ podcast last August. “I can’t see what he’s got. How on earth Ferguson and all his millions of coaches could have watched this boy week-in-week out and then signed him for the first team I just don’t know. It’s always a risk signing a goalkeeper from Spain, and Ferguson should have known this.”

“I’m looking forward to Man United versus Stoke,” Barclay added, with ill disguised glee.

Barclay, being Barclay, will likely be the last to come down from this particular high horse, let alone the xenophobic rant about Spanish ‘keeping, which has produced the considerable talents of Iker Casillas and Victor Valdes, together with Liverpool’s Pepe Reina, in recent years.

The theme continued in the The Independent, where the normally excellent Ian Herbert was quick to join the throng.

“It is unclear whether the English lessons, with which his manager says he is progressing so well, have acquainted him with an understanding of the term “dodgy keeper” but when it was being blasted out only 35 minutes into his competitive English career yesterday it was hard not to fear for him. The Premier League has a way of finding a player’s weakness and offering no sanctuary.”

Then in The Telegraph former Liverpool defender Alan Hansen, who has enjoyed a season-long war-of-words with Ferguson, was quick to claim that de Gea did “not have the trust of his teammates.”

“My record with underestimating how successful kids can be dreadful, but the crucial difference between the class of 1995 and Ferguson’s current crop is in the defence. It is too simple to say you will win nothing with a kid in goal, but it is a monumental challenge to ask a defence with an average age of 22 to go into games with the likes of Arsenal and Spurs.”

So monumental - it is tempting to point out – that United hammered 11 past the north London duo. Hindsight is a powerful weapon, of course, especially with the bravura of correct foresight in the face of overwhelming opposition. But none of the criticism really made any sense, except as a narrow observation on de Gea’s individual performances over a short period of time.

Certainly, the Spaniard should have kept out shots against City in the Community Shield, West Brom in the Premier League, and perhaps even Theo Wallcott’s strike through the ‘keeper’s legs in United’s 8-2 demolition of Arsenal at Old Trafford. Then came the calamitous performance against Blackburn Rovers in defeat, which precipitated the Spaniard’s demotion, and the cup loss to Liverpool at Anfield, where the home side thoroughly bullied the young ‘keeper.

In truth this was a quintet of games in which de Gea will have learned much about the brutality of the Premier League, but more about the media pack covering the world’s most widely broadcast competition. The former Atlético de Madrid stopper, who has already won a Europa League medal and the European Under-21 Championship, deserved none of the widespread psychological over-analysis.

After all, here was a kid, in his first weeks away from home, girlfriend a plane ride away in Spain, living in a hotel room, and who had little serious command of the language. What else, bar uncertain performances, could ever have been expected, of even the most the brilliant young player?

“There’s obviously an agenda from the media on de Gea and we experienced that again after the game in Benfica,” mused Ferguson in September.

“For some reason, it seems to me they [the press] are desperate for the boy to fail. I don’t understand it. They will all want interviews when he is doing well.”

Six months on and the tidal wave of revisionism flows freely. Some praise followed de Gea’s outstanding performance at Stamford Bridge in early February; barely a week after the loss to Liverpool, which had prompted some commentators to suggest the Spaniard’s time at Old Trafford was up. Assured performances against Norwich City, Tottenham, Fulham and Blackburn Rovers demands even more.

On Monday night, at Ewood, two outstanding saves kept United in the game as the home side tried, and failed, to break the Reds as the game seemed destined for a goalless draw.

Indeed, de Gea’s phone – or more accurately his agent’s – will now be ringing off-the-hook with media requests such is the turnaround. If the Madrileño was culpable for goals conceded earlier in the season, then he undoubtedly saved United points against Chelsea, Norwich, Fulham and Blackburn.

Barclay, who in October accused United fans offering de Gea support of being “trolls,” only partially revised his former position, claiming in October last year that his was merely an observation, correct at the time. The Scot has said nothing on the subject since. Ferguson, and his “millions of coaches” who bought “a jelly,” might wonder when Barclay will take a step further and bite down on humble pie.

Other commentators will be forced to offer revisions to premature judgement too, as de Gea eventually – inevitably some might say – blossoms into one of the world’s finest goalkeepers, as his talent – evident to those who, unlike Barclay, have watched the kid from an earlier age – shines through.

“David de Gea made three fantastic saves to keep us in the game,” said Ferguson on Monday, echoing words he has now become accustomed to repeating.

“Although we had all the possession, we couldn’t create the openings to get in front. Javier Hernandez hit the post and we had a penalty kick claim – I didn’t think it was – so David has done his bit for the team. He has really grown in stature the boy. He was outstanding.”

Now five points clear – possibly eight by next weekend’s end – Bright is increasingly likely to be proven wrong. Both in United’s ascent to the Premier League title, and de Gea’s role in it.

Some, like Spanish commentator Guillermo Balague, never questioned the youngster’s ability to make it at United: “People doubting David de Gea? Seriously? It will be a feast of eaten words at the end of the season,” he said with much prescience in August.

It is a pity his English colleagues lacked the same patience.

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Comments

  1. bman says

    Barclay is a real gobshite, I don’t know how he acquired a somewhat prestigious reputation, maybe just by being old? He regularly talks stupid belligerent-old-git-in-a-pub level shite, then never backs down from it or holds up his hands when someone points out of fucking stupid his comment is. I used to enjoy the Times podcasts just to see how thick his next comment would be, usually one that completely contradicts the last thing he said.

  2. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    He’s still got a lot to learn… still flaps a bit at corners… but that was always expected… and that’s the thing… right from the start, people were expecting him to struggle with the physical nature in England, especially free kicks and corners.

    But I always felt that United seemed to have put a lot of effort in the scouting of this kid… surely they must have seen something.

    Now we’re seeing it… he has made a few saves in the past 3/4 weeks that would have beaten most other keepers in the league.

    Been brilliant.

    But how long can we keep him?

    • vlad says

      He’s from Atletico so hopefully not Real.
      And Barca don’t need a ‘keeper as long as they have Iniesta.

  3. squigs says

    Before I moan I will say, He is a fantastic shot stopper and I think in time he has the potential to become the best keeper in the world.

    But peope are going into overdrive because he is not making clangers (I have done it myself) he still fails to command the box, fails to communicate with his defenders and I feel I could name 5-6 better premier league keepers currently.

  4. Sidsidney says

    He complains more now when the defence let someone shoot, or when someone fucks up

    But its hard for him to bollock senior pros like Ferdinand, Evra etc. because he’s the new kid and he still make mistakes. Once he settles into the role and becomes United’s number 1 proper, he’ll start gobbing off more and sorting stuff out – like in any job.

    Also, Mark Bright is sort of right… If we win the league, we won’t have won it with just De Gea, but with Lindegaard too. He played a crucial role when the Spaniard was faffing and being targetted by the opposition. If we’d have perservered with him during that spell then we wouldn’t be top right now – would have dropped too many points.

  5. squigs says

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    Maybe Squigs… but none of them would be younger, would they?

    Well Krul 23 and Hart 24 are hardly veterans and Petr Cech was the best keeper in the premier league at 22. I think he will become a very accomplished keeper but it isn’t because of De Gea we are in poll position for the league.

    He has played well but people should keep a lid on it for now. The young lad has struggled with such expectations at times.

  6. says

    I am going to troll Mark Bright so hard if we win the league

    The guy is a prat at the best of times

    I think that DDG has made an overall great start to his career. Not knowing the local means he is always going to struggle with communication, and with defenders such as Rio / Vidic in front of you, are you likely to feel confident enough as a green 20 year old kid to bark at them?

    I hope next year we see him take command a lot more. When I saw him play for Atletico I seem to remember him giving out lashings at defenders and commanding things a lot more. If we manage to get the league this year, I can see his confidence soaring, at which point I expect lashings for all our defenders if they are out of position / day dreaming / tweeting about how much they love Drake instead of actually playing

  7. Godfrey says

    **day dreaming / tweeting about how much they love Drake instead of actually playing
    LOL….the tweets and drake bit….

    But jokes apart the boy is growing in confidence..
    What wuth all the bashing he was getting its a sense of relief as well as a pleasure to see him rise to reach his potential…

  8. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    squigs said:
    Well Krul 23 and Hart 24 are hardly veterans and Petr Cech was the best keeper in the premier league at 22.

    Right… so even if you set Cech as the bench mark… de Gea is only 21… that gives him another year to improve… and look at the progress he’s made in just his first few months.

    I don’t really give a shit if he’s considered “The Best”… as long as he holds up his end in keeping United defensively strong… we’ve got some very good young defenders in front of him, and if they can all stay together and improve then our defence will be tight as fuck for years.

    I don’t think anyone is really going over the top about de Gea, but after the abuse he took from some in the press, and it must be said, from here as well… I think those of us who advocated a bit of perspective and patience have the right to point out how foolish those miserable cunts look now.

    • DeadRevel says

      “I think those of us who advocated a bit of perspective and patience have the right to point out how foolish those miserable cunts look now.”

      Amen.

      Oh, and De Gea clearly has more potential than the other keepers mentioned. In two years, him and Joe Hart will be the best keepers in the league.

      Not sure about the paranoia about Spain robbing our players too. Why don’t you lot grow a pair? Ronaldo left and now you’re all pussys. Get over it.
      He’s from Atletico – doubt he’d move to Madrid, Barca rarely spend big money on players (which is what he’d cost if he reaches his potential) and he has said several times he wants to match or exceed the achievements of Schmeichel and van der Sar at United. Nothing to be concerned about unless something changes in the future.

  9. Stevie D says

    Couple of points:
    1. What person, with all their working faculties, would in their right mind pay attention to anything Mark Bright has to say? This guy is a clown.
    2. Just as the criticism of de Gea was criminally premature….some of the plaudits are a bit premature also. Lets give the guy time to settle into life at OT, lets see how he copes in the big games, lets see how he develops physically. While he has been in good form, lets not get carried away either.

  10. Digga says

    say one thing about david de gea, say he looks much less of a cunt without the bumfluff round his moosh

  11. Pete says

    Why does anyone care what the media thinks and why do they feel the need to say I told you so?

    He had an unsteady start, his support from United in general never waned and he will continue to make mistakes and learn from them in the future.

  12. Brown man says

    say one thing about david de gea, say he looks much less of a cunt without the bumfluff round his moosh

    He’ll find it easier getting served in pubs without it anyway !
    Maybe not a Schmeichel or VDS but he’ll be imposing enough in years to come. This year was always going to be a tough one for him.

  13. bman says

    Not sure about the paranoia about Spain robbing our players too. Why don’t you lot grow a pair? Ronaldo left and now you’re all pussys. Get over it.
    He’s from Atletico – doubt he’d move to Madrid, Barca rarely spend big money on players (which is what he’d cost if he reaches his potential) and he has said several times he wants to match or exceed the achievements of Schmeichel and van der Sar at United. Nothing to be concerned about unless something changes in the future.

    Barca don’t spend big money on players? Don’t believe the hype mate. Sanchez, Ibrahimovic, Mascherano, da Silva — they’re spending in a much higher price tier than we are.

  14. says

    Commenter said:
    Why does anyone care what the media thinks and why do they feel the need to say I told you so?

    He had an unsteady start, his support from United in general never waned and he will continue to make mistakes and learn from them in the future.

    Well said Pete, end of thread

  15. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    bman said:
    Barca don’t spend big money on players? Don’t believe the hype mate. Sanchez, Ibrahimovic, Mascherano, da Silva — they’re spending in a much higher price tier than we are.

    It’s not just the fees either… Rooney aside, they pay a lot more in wages.

  16. squigs says

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    Right… so even if you set Cech as the bench mark… de Gea is only 21… that gives him another year to improve… and look at the progress he’s made in just his first few months.

    I don’t think anyone is really going over the top about de Gea, but after the abuse he took from some in the press, and it must be said, from here as well..

    He hasn’t reached the levels of his performances in Spain. The comparison to Cech is because it was because of Cech’s impact Fergie bought him. Fergie has previously stated that he regretted missing out on Cech and Joe Hart and was not going to be put off putting a young keeper between the sticks.

    De Gea cost premium money and Fergie hopes he will match the quality of Cech.

    People shouldn’t be getting smarmy at Mark Bright (The chap is a good pundit) he rightfully aired concerns after his first few games and even up to a few weeks ago De Gea’s performances didn’t inspire faith. Critics say he can be intimidated at corners and flapped at crosses and they are not wrong.

  17. Pikey McScumPikey McScum says

    Like I said in the “Evans” thread, a decent run of games can only be a good thing for a player.

    Lindegaard getting injured was the best thing that could have happened to de Gea

  18. shauno says

    I’ve said it before, if we win the league this year with two new keepers, all those young players during a period of transition (or decline depending on who you listen to) then thats some achievement. We are seeing people perform beyond expectations (Young)(Smalling) others going through incredible form (Valencia)and being treated to the unexpected cameo of Scholes. If we win with all this going on it will be one hell of a victory. Yes we have had Euro problems but you can’t have everything. Now lets extend it to 8pts this weekend!

  19. Denton Davey says

    For me, DDG has been the player-of-the-season – not ALL of the season but his performances in the New Year have been excellent.

    He is also the man responsible for the moment-of-the-season – his save on Juan Mata’s free kick kept UTD level at Stamford Bridge after TheLads had clawed their way back from a 3-nil deficit.

    AND, he’s only going to get better.

    What a signing ! – like Chicharito last season, DDG has been a kind of “booster rocket” for the way that the team has played.

  20. bman says

    It’s true, there have been a lot of games recently where DDG’s personal interventions have saved us a lot of points.

  21. RedDevilInAz says

    What most of the press failed to take into account was that during the early part of the season DdG never had the same player for two games in a row and never got a chance to develop a who does what and when relationship.

    Add to that he is a young player, I don’t care what position they play youngsters are going to make mistakes, at goalkeeper any mistake is massively amplified.

    Here a prediction for you; DdG will replace Reina at this years EUROs and will be a spot starter for Spain at the World Cup 2014.

  22. squigs says

    bman said:
    It’s true, there have been a lot of games recently where DDG’s personal interventions have saved us a lot of points.

    This is the overboard hype I was talking about.

    He has cost us more points then he has saved and he has knocked us out of a few competitions.

    Player of the season? You have to be kidding.

  23. sheesh says

    squigs said:
    He has cost us more points then he has saved and he has knocked us out of a few competitions.

    Which ‘few competitions’ are these then?
    Oh, and please point out which league games he has made mistakes which can be directly attributed to us dropping points – because I completely disagree with this idea that, over the course of a season, “he has cost us more points than he has saved”.
    I think that what you’re saying is complete bollocks. We’re heading for a record points total for goodness sake.
    I’m not saying he has been completely faultless. Yes, he has made mistakes and had the odd bad game (Blackburn and Basel away, granted) but, over the course of the season, many of the mistakes he has made have been magnified by the media. All in all, considering he’s a young lad from abroad and it’s his first season at one of the biggest clubs in the world in one of the toughest positions in the starting eleven at United, I think he’s done a great job.
    Let’s have some perspective, FFS.
    He will continue making the odd mistake here and there but he is young and, from what I have seen of him this season, I have no doubt he will get better and better. As gets more games under his belt, he is looking more assured. Don’t forget that we had a huge injury crisis and struggled to put together a settled back 4.
    Many keepers would have caved into the pressure of being United no.1 but de Gea has shown excellent temperament.

  24. baloobaloo says

    sheesh said:
    Which ‘few competitions’ are these then?

    Let’s have some perspective, FFS.

    He will continue making the odd mistake here and there but he is young and from what I have seen of him this season, I have no doubt he will get better and better. As gets more games under his belt, he is looking more assured. Don’t forget that we had a huge injury crisis and struggled to put together a settled back 4.

    Many keepers would have caved into the pressure of being United no.1 but de Gea has shown excellent temperament.

    Couldn’t agree more – especially about the temperament comment. Look at all the other, more experienced keepers that have failed at United that didn’t have to contend with new country, being away from your girlfriend and family and all the rest. He’s 20 ffs, and has coped with a type of pressure the like that all of us commenting on here have never had to contend with.

    He’s going to be world class, and I like him. More mistakes to come and a 12-18 month weights programme required, but after that I agree with whoever said that him and Hart will be the best in the league

  25. squigs says

    sheesh said:
    Which ‘few competitions’ are these then?

    Oh, and please point out which league games he has made mistakes which can be directly attributed to us dropping points – because I completely disagree with this idea that, over the course of a season, “he has cost us more points than he has saved”.

    I think that what you’re saying is complete bollocks. We’re heading for a record points total for goodness sake.

    I’m not saying he has been completely faultless. Yes, he has made mistakes and had the odd bad game (Blackburn and Basel away, granted) but, over the course of the season, many of the mistakes he has made have been magnified by the media. All in all, considering he’s a young lad from abroad and it’s his first season at one of the biggest clubs in the world in one of the toughest positions in the starting eleven at United, I think he’s done a great job.

    Let’s have some perspective, FFS.

    He will continue making the odd mistake here and there but he is young and, from what I have seen of him this season, I have no doubt he will get better and better. As gets more games under his belt, he is looking more assured. Don’t forget that we had a huge injury crisis and struggled to put together a settled back 4.

    Many keepers would have caved into the pressure of being United no.1 but de Gea has shown excellent temperament.

    He made big errors in two games that led to us going out of two competitions

    FA Cup: Liverpool
    Champions League: Basel

    League Blackburn, Stoke 5pts dropped

    He has got away with utter clangers against the likes of West Brom.

  26. bman says

    squigs said:

    bman said: It’s true, there have been a lot of games recently where DDG’s personal interventions have saved us a lot of points.

    This is the overboard hype I was talking about.

    Overboard hype? I gave a fairly specific statement of fact FFS. Do you disagree that De Gea has pulled off quite a few impressive saves in recent weeks? A lesser keeper would have missed a couple of them, costing us points. Pretty straight forward really. Whatever else you might say about him, his athletic shot-stopping ability is plain to see.

  27. bman says

    I don’t deny that he had some clangers earlier in the season, no one’s denying that. The point is he’s doing well these days, and in recent weeks I think it’s fair to say that his goalkeeping performances have been quite a bit above the average, winning us points on the multiple occasions (nearly every match) where the defence leaves him totally exposed.

    That’s actually the biggest difference to our defence. We’re still making at least a couple of big mistakes every game, but lately De Gea’s been saving our arses by pulling off big saves.

  28. squigs says

    bman said:
    I don’t deny that he had some clangers earlier in the season, no one’s denying that. The point is he’s doing well these days, and in recent weeks I think it’s fair to say that his goalkeeping performances have been quite a bit above the average, winning us points on the multiple occasions (nearly every match) where the defence leaves him totally exposed.

    That’s actually the biggest difference to our defence. We’re still making at least a couple of big mistakes every game, but lately De Gea’s been saving our arses by pulling off big saves.

    Too many of these mistakes have been from De Gea, usually showing a serious inability to deal with crosses, his best save against Blackburn was a result of his weak punch out to a player on the edge of the penalty area to shoot. He made a good save from a corner were his defender (Rooney) let him down.

  29. madmaxmadmax says

    squigs said:
    Too many of these mistakes have been from De Gea, usually showing a serious inability to deal with crosses, his best save against Blackburn was a result of his weak punch out to a player on the edge of the penalty area to shoot. He made a good save from a corner were his defender (Rooney) let him down.

    FFS. Ofcourse he was going to make mistakes,he was going ot take time to settle in.His mistakes are far fewer now. Like its been said a million times already,impatient fans don’t seem to realise that we didn’t sign a Casillas or Buffon, who’d slot right in. We signed a young, potentially very good keeper.Its too much for a young keeper.So far he has dealt with most of the challenges he has had to face. He’s been immense in the last few matches. Its utterly ridiculous to blame De Gea for our shiteness in FA Cup and Champions League. We aren’t even good enough to give a 21 year old young keeper some to settle in.

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