Ever since Edwin Van Der Sar announced his decision to retire at the end of the season, United fans knew that there would be at least one signing come the end of the season as Sir Alex would surely dip into the market in search of a goalkeeper. When Peter Schmeichel called it quits at the end of the treble winning season, the manager took six years to find an able replacement. Several keepers came and went but none of them proved good enough to replicate the ‘Great Dane’ until, of course, the great Dutchman came to Old Trafford in 2005.
This time, though, Sir Alex was not ready to allow the same thing to happen or at least he decided to do the best to stop it. With every other keeper linked to guard the posts at Old Trafford in the new season, Fergie decided to sign 20 year-old David De Gea for an undisclosed fee estimated to be around 17 million pounds.
De Gea is a highly-rated Spaniard who joined Athletico Madrid’s youth team at a tender age of 10 and continued to progress before making his debut for the first team before his 18th birthday. De Gea has also been performing well at the youth level for Spain as he has been part of their U-17, U-19, U-20 and U-21 teams and has long been tipped to replace Iker Casillas as Spain’s no. 1.
For now, De Gea has a huge responsibility of filling Van Der Sar’s boots in one of the most thankless jobs in world football – to be the goalkeeper at Manchester United.
De Gea is a great shot stopper and is known for making brilliant saves in matches for Atletico Madrid that were important for them in gaining crucial points. Also, he is understood to be a calm and composed goalkeeper – traits which would help him adapt to playing in England, more so at Old Trafford.
Like Van Der Sar, De Gea is also very good at organizing defences which would be very helpful to the team. It was often seen that the team’s defence was not the same in Edwin’s absence as none of Kuszczak, Amos or even Lindegaard were able to manage the back four as efficiently as the Dutchman. De Gea is also recognized as being a very good goalkeeper against penalty kicks.
One of the biggest weaknesses for De Gea is his inexperience as he has only 84 senior club appearances to his name apart from a handful games for Spain at the youth level. With keepers generally believed to be at their best at the latter stages of their careers, De Gea has a huge point to prove to fans and pundits across the globe that he has deserved his chance to be no. 1 at Old Trafford.
Also, the fact that De Gea has never played in a Champions League game adds that extra bit of pressure on him given the importance of the competition for the club. A mistake in Europe could virtually end one’s stay at Old Trafford as was the case for Tim Howard following his mistake against Porto in 2004.
De Gea’s lack of comprehending and speaking English might also be a hindrance for him as, being a goalkeeper, he needs to be clear in his instructions to his players for a successfully organised defence.
De Gea’s inexperience might well be his weakness but his young age provides him an opportunity, as well; an opportunity by which he could make a name for himself by serving one of the world’s biggest clubs for years to come. Having joined United at such a young age, De Gea could very well go on to become one of the longest serving players at the club if he manages to put in consistent performances and decides to stay at the club.
It is never easy for a player to make the transition from La Liga to the Premier League owing to the difference in styles of football played between the two leagues. In England, De Gea would be tested with a lot more aerial balls and crosses into the box than he had to deal with in Spain. He needs to be commanding in the box and sure in his decision making if and when he goes to catch or punch the balls flying into the box.
Also, players are a lot more physical in the Premier League and the young Spaniard would have to adapt soon or else he would be bullied by the opponents on high balls leaving his side into trouble more often than not. Andy Gray’s comments might not be true about Messi’s troubles in a cold night at the Britannia Stadium, but it would certainly become true in case of De Gea if he fails to adapt to the Premier League.
Time will only tell whether David De Gea proves to be a success or a costly mistake by the manager. For the time being, De Gea is here at Old Trafford and the fans would be hoping he is here to stay for a long, long time.