Manchester United’s new €20 million goalkeeper David de Gea could start his first match for the club against Seattle Sounders on Thursday morning but manager Sir Alex Ferguson has warned that fans may need to be patient with the 20-year-old former Atlético de Madrid player. The player joined training with his new colleagues this week but the Spaniard will face a challenge from Anders Lindegaard for United’s goalkeeping position warned Ferguson.
Ferguson spoke ahead of United’s second match of the US tour, with the Reds facing MLS champions Sounders in the Pacific north-west. While de Gea will play his first United match at CenturyLink Field, Ferguson says the Madrid-born ‘keeper must adjust both to life in the Old Trafford spotlight and the rigours of Premier League football.
It had appeared unthinkable that the United manager would leave his expensive new acquisition on the bench come the start of the Premier League season in just over three weeks, but Ferguson can also use Lindegaard and Ben Amos on tour in the States. Indeed, 26-year-old Dane Lindegaard started against New England Revolution last Wednesday, with Tomasz Kuszczak left in Manchester to close a move away from the club.
“The only area where we may have to be patient is in the goalkeeping position,” Ferguson told reporters in Seattle on Tuesday.
“De Gea is only 20, he’s young. He’s played in the Spanish league for a couple of years, but it’s not the English league. I think he’ll need time to settle in, but the potential is enormous. It’s absolutely unbelievable, the potential the boy has got. We’ve also got Anders Lindegaard, so we may get a challenge for them both to accept, but in time the boy De Gea will make it his position, there’s no doubt about that.”
Ferguson may consider allowing de Gea time to settle into the club as the new season begins, despite the player’s hefty price tag, which makes the 20-year-old Spaniard the second most expensive goalkeeper in history. It is, perhaps, a risky strategy with Lindegaard also inexperienced at the highest level after a journeyman career to date.
Ferguson’s words also recall the damaging stand-off between Tim Howard and Roy Carroll in 2004/5 before Edwin van der Sar joined from Fulham. The Northern Irishman started 34 games in all competitions, with Howard between the sticks for 27 but neither settled into the role, seemingly undermined and not inspired by competition.
For his part Lindegaard has shown admirable patience since joining the club in January. Sidelined first by van der Sar’s consistency in the Dutchman’s final season, and then by a knee injury, Lindegaard has waited more than six months for an opportunity. The Dane is relishing the challenge.
“The boss told me when I came that he doesn’t care how you look, what your name is, your price tag or what your religion is because, if you’re good enough, you’re going to play,” Lindegaard said earlier this week.
“That’s the same with all the places at Manchester United. The best man plays and that’s how it is and how it should be. There’s been a lot of talk about De Gea, but my focus isn’t on him because I won’t gain anything from that. My focus is what I can do something about, and that’s playing games.
“I didn’t come to pick my nose or to sit on the bench and watch football as a privileged fan. I’m here to play and make my way and earn my respect. Edwin had a huge name at United and earned his way to where he was. He was a legend here and one of the top two goalkeepers ever to play for the club.
“I guess him retiring makes the spot available and it’s the most attractive goalkeeping job in the world. It’s the job everybody wants and I’m no different.”
Lindegaard impressed against Revolution last week but is likely to warm the bench as United begins the second of a five match tour. The squad, including Ferguson’s three ‘keepers, spent a week of training and preparation at Nike’s headquarters in Oregon before moving on to Seattle today.
de Gea’s relaxed work out with Eric Steele on Tuesday included instructions in rudimentary Spanish from the veteran coach, with the youngster yet to learn English. It is a challenge the club will correct quickly, with communication between Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and the ‘keeper essential.
yet despite Ferguson’s warning that de Gea may not claim the number one shirt from August, and concerns about how the youngster will settle in England, the Scot has little doubt about his new ‘keeper’s talent.
“Youth, age, it doesn’t matter when you have the ability of a goalkeeper like de Gea has,” added the United manager last week.
“He’s young, he’s quick and he has fantastic presence and composure. His use of the ball is outstanding. All of these plus points are things that don’t go away. He’s got these natural things.”
It’s a claim that United supporters will review for the first time in the early hours of Thursday morning.