Patience required for de Gea’s time to come

January 30, 2012 Tags: Opinion 29 comments

Fans, so the cliché goes, can be fickle. Indeed, supporters’ frustration, together with social media’s immediacy, has created the impression that Manchester United fans swing from one instant reaction to the next. One mistake, a poor game, let alone defeat, results in a tsunami of opinion, often debased to mindless vitriolic abuse.

The rush to judgement frustrates at times; a point articulated in January’s United We Stand by editor Andy Mitten. Yet, few supporters’ opinions are formed with the agenda that often dominates the mainstream media. Cruel as supporters are at times, the opinions proffered on Twitter, blogs, Facebook and other communities rarely come with a sense of premeditation. It is both a strength and weakness of the medium.

This dichotomy may not be one United goalkeeper David de Gea is considering today, barely 48 hours after both media, and some supporters, criticised the 20-year-old Spaniard for his part in United’s defeat to Liverpool at the weekend. Indeed, while de Gea has a reasonably active Twitter account it is almost exclusively used in the Spanish language. Given the views expressed by some on Saturday, this is surely for the best.

Yet, a handful of albeit noisy Twitteratti holds no candle to the mainstream media when it comes to damning judgement. This includes broadcaster ITV whose commentary team of Clive Tyldsley and Jim Beglin were so quick to lambast the former Atlético de Madrid stopper. Blamed instantaneously for both goals by co-commentator Beglin, de Gea was quickly fingered as United’s key weak link.

So too has the print media, with stories of de Gea’s quality – or lack thereof – following the youngster since debut in pre-season. This was a story simply too good to miss.

That said, at times de Gea looked concurrently nervous, furlorn and robbed of all confidence at Anfield. Routine crosses were dropped, while the Spaniard’s normally outstanding distribution suffered too. It has been a testing campaign for the youngster, as it was always going to be.

Still, two days later and the rush to judge seems as erroneous now as it did then. Objective review of Liverpool’s two goals at Anfield places the blame at the doorstep of others, with de Gea suffering for the mistakes of his back-four. Indeed, Liverpool’s first, nodded home by defender Daniel Agger, was largely thanks to an unchallenged header. The host’s second came when Patrice Evra wondered out of position and allowed Dirk Kuyt a free shot inside the area.

It is a point hammered home by perennially injured striker Michael Owen, who took to Twitter to defend his younger colleague.

“One comment on yesterdays game. Don’t agree with all this negativity towards De Gea,” Owen Tweeted on Sunday.

“Admittedly he has made a couple of mistakes this season but listening to some people you would think he had a nightmare yesterday. I’m not having either goal was his fault. The problem is, once you get labelled, mud sticks and now any tiny mistake is magnified. Other keepers make similar mistakes and nothing gets said.

“The lad will be a top keeper, he is only young. Harsh to blame him for everything. The fans know he needs their support, his confidence needs boosting. I’m sure he will repay that support for years to come.”

Indeed, even the very best have suffered in the harsh spotlight of the United net. Even the greatest, Peter Schmeichel, suffered a testing first campaign at Old Trafford. Meanwhile, Edwin van der Sar made several glaring errors in a otherwise outstanding six seasons with the club. The opening goal of the 2009 Champions League final, for example, saw van der Sar beaten at the near post – a goal scored with barely a murmur from supporters.

Anders Lindegaard, the Spaniard’s immediate competition for a spot in Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, has made errors too, although of the less obvious variety. Recall the Dane’s weak hand as Robin van Persie shot across, but very close to, Lindegaard at the Emirates.

de Gea’s real mistake, it seems, is to have built a reputation far too early in his United career. Earlier this season, thanks to Edin Džeko’s long-range strike at Wembley in August, de Gea’s goal was peppered from outside the area. Now, the opposition simply plans to beat up on the slightly built youngster. Liverpool repeatedly launched long balls into the United area.

Reputations in this sport are far harder to dispel than create – a truism that Tyldsley, and especially Beglin, have bought into.

Yet, those who have watched de Gea blossom from Atléti B teamer, to the teenager who was such an important part of the club’s 2010 Europa League win, will remain confident. Ferguson and his coaching staff, who spent months tracking the Spanish under-21 international, will surely remain stoic in the face of media onslaught.

Surely de Gea’s troubles have everything to do with confidence and a lengthy period of adjustment, rather than shortage of talent. Thrust into the spotlight, under pressure to succeed one of the very greatest, and miles from home, there can be no surprise that de Gea has not yet fulfilled his potential.

The question, of course, is how quickly the ‘keeper will find his feet, given the right environment and support. The player is certainly not helped by an ever-changing back four, goalkeeping rotation or, indeed, Ferguson’s rather odd decision to recall the ‘keeper amid the intense heat of an Anfield cup tie.

Yet, others are unsure about de Gea’s make up, including former Red Paul Parker.

“It was not really the Spaniard’s errors that were the problem for me; I thought his mistakes for both goals were relatively minor and he was undone by some poor defending,” adds Yahoo! pundit, Parker.

“What really bothered me was his apparently complete lack of confidence. It makes me wonder if he will be able to handle the scrutiny he is under at the moment. When most goalkeepers make mistakes they get angry – nearly all offer some sort of reaction. De Gea doesn’t do anything at all. He is expressionless, and looks lost.

“Peter Schmeichel made the odd howler, which usually stemmed from making a rash decision – but at least he did something. De Gea’s mistakes come from not doing anything. He freezes, and appears indecisive.”

It is an astute observation by Parker, but one that does not chime with de Gea’s performances in Madrid, where the player’s confidence and maturity so often came to the fore.

It is a cliché, but at just 21 time is certainly on de Gea’s side. For Ferguson and United the equation is different. Taking de Gea out of the firing line now necessitates an extended spell for Lindegaard, a solid if unspectacular ‘keeper whom few will bracket among the very best of his profession.

The delicate balancing act of weighing de Gea’s development against United’s immediate priorities will continue. Good job, then, that in Ferguson the ‘keeper has a manager who is unlikely to bow to media pressure, whether from the mainstream or grassroots.


Alfonso Bedoya - January 30, 2012 Reply

I think his biggest challenge is learning how to attack crosses and corners.

Teams are posting players right under his chin, because they’ve sussed that he doesn’t know how to deal with it.

He needs to learn how to command his area… once he can do that… he’ll be reet.

Alfonso Bedoya - January 31, 2012 Reply

It just gets better, don’t it?

Andrew S - January 31, 2012 Reply

I’m a believer, but I’m disappointed in Ferguson’s handling of De Gea. As the article alludes to, goalkeepers of more experience (Reina at Liverpool for example) have made mistakes as bad, if not worse than David’s thus far, the unfortunate thing for him is 1) he plays for United, 2) the price tag and 3) he’s a goalkeeper! Considering all of this, I would’ve expected Fergie to show a bit more faith in him. Dropping him after the Blackburn game was an admission that there was a problem, I would’ve preferred a bullish, ‘you’re talking out of your arse’ response like Ferguson usually reserves for criticism of his players (remember his support of Veron?). What David needs is all of us to get behind him (maybe only play him at OT for a while?) and a few half decent displays. Confidence can always be rebuilt.

Violent Banana - January 31, 2012 Reply

He’s a complete liability.

manutd50 - January 31, 2012 Reply

Johnny Evans has got off without a mention here – at fault for both goals in my opinion.

The corner for the first goal came from Park falling over. At the resulting corner – Evans (and valencia) were crowding de gea – maybe trying to protect him from carroll – but it was more of a hindrance.

For Kuyts winner Evans didn’t even try to jump to beat carroll to the header which lead to the goal – re-watch these incidents and you can’t really argue.

Having said all that – de gea did look shaky and certainly should have done better for both, but I can’t believe Evans hasn’t really been mentioned…

Aswin Van Der Sar - January 31, 2012 Reply

They forgot about De Gea being the #1 best
Premier League goalkeeper so far this season.. With 80% rate of saves..

han - January 31, 2012 Reply

son of gary bailey
another vampire like performance in the crosses department
but he is young and will learn
just wish it wasn’t in the 1st team thats all

Leif Sward - January 31, 2012 Reply

If we could somehow take the confidence & arrogance of Lindegaard and mix with the ability of de Gea we’d have a top keeper. Thankfully, these are mental attributes that can develop with time and once he feels firmly at home. I’m inclined to give the lad the benefit of the doubt.

Julian - January 31, 2012 Reply

I’m afraid the goalkeeping situation has been botched. Fine to buy De Gea as an investment for the long term but certainly not fine to make him number 1 straight away. To fill VDS’s boots required experience, ability, presence and of course confidence. De Gea may have latent ability and it could be that one day he will probably turn out to be a great keeper. But he’s young, relatively slight in build and when he arrived could not speak a word of English. How he was expected to be able to take the No 1 spot and boss the penalty area is beyond me. Lindegaard should have been appointed No 1 with De Gea learning the ropes and generally getting acclimatised with occasional appearances etc. The trouble is I don’t think Fergie had, or has even, complete confidence in the Dane. So it’s a fine old mess which has cost us and is probably going to continue to do so.

Ed - January 31, 2012 Reply

Julian – Lindegaard was always bought to be a reserve. £3.5m from a Norwegian club represented good value. The option to de Gea would have been another of Europe’s top keepers but none that were deemed good enough were available.

Julian - January 31, 2012 Reply

Quite possible. Then at this juncture neither are fit to be No 1. As with some of our other recent transfer attempts – we just couldn’t get our man. How different things might be had we managed to get Manuel Neuer from Schalke!

arch tony - January 31, 2012 Reply

son of Gary Bailey is not far off the mark. I wonder where he’d be placed in
list of keepers in the last 50 years. struggling to make my top ten

Julian - January 31, 2012 Reply

That’s a bit unfair. I’d rate Bailey 5th on the all time list behind Schmeichel,VDS, Stepney and Gregg.

uncleknobheadforfucksake - January 31, 2012 Reply

lindegards hardly playing well tbh, rotation would many any keeper look shite, only fergie rotates keepers

Bill - January 31, 2012 Reply

Should have gone for Stekelenburg – he’s more experienced than both De Gea and Lindegaard. Could have got him for 5 million. 6ft 5 and aged 29 – prime height and age. He has a solid build too, something De Gea hasn’t. Another major problem with De Gea is the fact he can’t speak English, hard to communicate in games and won’t help him fit in off the pitch either. Clubs like United can’t be waiting on potential in key areas like GK. Lindegaard should start all the important games from now on.

ja - January 31, 2012 Reply

I agree, is De Gea really that much better prospect than say Amos or Johnstone, both about the same age.

Bill - January 31, 2012 Reply

Basically we have paid 18 mill for the worlds best young gk. Fair enough, but unfortunately the media will get their teeth into De Gea, as will the messagboards. It’s a different landscape now than in the 90s. That is why getting the solid buy, especially at keeper is the safest bet.

Newton Heath RED - January 31, 2012 Reply

I think that you may be a little harsh on Lindegaard…to say he was at fault for the Van Persie goal would be extremely harsh…lets be honest he hasnt made one howler .. he is a good solid keeper, he isnt afraid to organise his defence and he seems to have the right attitude

Bill - January 31, 2012 Reply

For a club like United you need a steady keeper who will be reliable and organise. VDS was the best example of this. Schmeichel is from a different era and a one off.

Taking this into account Lindegaard is the best bet for the immediate future. Is the Pig still a United player? A waste of money for United to be paying him and a waste for him not to be playing with the Euros coming up. He goes on a free in the summer.

£20,000 a week plus for a footballer to sit around whilst people die from preventable illnesses around the world.

bman - January 31, 2012 Reply

Evra and Vidic looked shit at first too. There’s nowhere to hide for defenders — players further up the pitch can make loads of mistakes and be forgiven for it, but one mistake get defenders lynched. Let’s see how the lad does in his second season, and it’s not helping him at all that the defenders in front of him are a constantly changing combination of barely older centre backs.

The real risk is that his confidence gets so shot that he’ll never recover.

Lindegaard’s an acceptable stop-gap, but that’s all. Decent stopper and all that, but he has no distribution at all.

shauno - January 31, 2012 Reply

Providing United stick with him long term he will come good. Very young for a keeper. Let him bulk up and get used to being in the Prem. In fairness what other options did we have. Other preferred options not available so they went with a very young keeper with bags of potential. De Gea, Lindegaard and Amos. Three good keepers. Can’t complain it’s up to the coaching staff and management to get the best out of them.

sheesh - January 31, 2012 Reply

Commenter said:
Providing United stick with him long term he will come good. Very young for a keeper. Let him bulk up and get used to being in the Prem. In fairness what other options did we have. Other preferred options not available so they went with a very young keeper with bags of potential. De Gea, Lindegaard and Amos. Three good keepers. Can’t complain it’s up to the coaching staff and management to get the best out of them.

I do agree that we need to give de Gea some time. He has done OK so far but has had shaky moments – he needs to put in a lot of work.

2 players we might have purchased instead of de Gea? Handanovic maybe? Steklenburg?

Pikey McScum - January 31, 2012 Reply

Don’t turn this into another fantasy thread – de Gea is the future, end of so let’s stop all this liability can’t cut it nonsense. I’ve seen enough to be properly excited about how good this kid can be, and so should every United fan

sheesh - January 31, 2012 Reply

De Gea and Lindegaard could be out of contention for the Chelsea match. Looks like we could be stuck with Amos:


Godfrey - February 2, 2012 Reply

If we ..by that i mean Fergie and and the staff..showed the patience that they did with gibbo and evans then the kid deseres a chance…
Rightly mentioned afor..the goals were evans fault..
We’re really missing Vida’s commanding presence in the box…

Brown man - February 2, 2012 Reply

OK, Evans is getting loads of chances from SAF but he can afford to ( to a point ), he’s not ‘keeper.

sidney - February 2, 2012 Reply

Is De Gea bottling it or what
He’s having a torrid time on the pitch, he’s getting shit in the press, he probably hates the UK and wants to go home – and in five years when he nails some form and becomes United’s proper number 1 he’ll admit to it. He’ll say this was one of the darkest periods of his life etc.
But until then, Fergie needs to be nice to him otherwise it won’t work out

sheesh - February 2, 2012 Reply

Why do I get the sneaky feeling that the Rent Boys will do everything in their power to ensure that the game on Sunday is postponed?
A light snow shower and the game will be off. I can sense it.

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