Sir Alex Ferguson praised goalkeeper David De Gea for last nights stunning performance against Real Madrid in the first leg of the knock out rounds of this years Champions League. De Gea was the stand out in a vintage match at the Bernabeu that ended in a 1-1. Home side Madrid were on the attack from the first minute onwards but its was United that took the lead with a well executed goal from Danny Welbeck. Madrid took 10 minutes to reply, through their usual source of goals, ex united star Cristiano Ronaldo but it was De Gea’s saves throughout the match that swung the balance of the game in United’s favour. In the post match interview, Ferguson was obviously delighted with his keepers form in the game and hailed the youngster from his attitude and approach as well as the string of fine saves he made to keep United in the tie. De Gea will have been happy with the way he played and that he impressed his manager but more so he will be happy that other potential suitors were watching.
At 22 years old, De Gea is now starting to blossom into the player many believed he would become. Signed from Atlético Madrid in 2011 as the ideal replacement for the retiring Edwin Van Der Saar, De Gea arrived at United with a reputation as one of the worlds hottest goalkeeping prospects. Having made his debut at age 18 at Madrid, De Gea went on to make the jersey his own after a dip in form from first-choice goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo and never looked back. During a two-year spell with the club, he made 57 appearances, many of which were match winning performances. It was enough to convince Ferguson that he was worth the investment of nearly £17 million. But United and Ferguson weren’t the only parties that were interested in the youngster with Spain’s big two monitoring the situation as well. With Casillas and Valdes approaching the later part of their careers, both Real Madrid and Barcelona have looked at De Gea as a possible replacement but neither managed to out in a bid before Ferguson swooped in. Despite losing out, both clubs are still keen on the player especially now that he is starting to grow into a world-class goalkeeper.
The Spanish goalkeeper, who has been capped at all levels for his country except for the full national team, has had a rocky start to life in the English Premiership. It took the player a while to adapt, which was noticeable in the early part of his United career. De Gea has talent which is plain to see but still lacks the maturity needed to be consistently reliable like Van Der Saar was for the Old Trafford team. His erratic nature has meant that his form has been more Jekyll and Hyde than Ferguson would have liked, often performing heroics one week only to undo all that work by making a series of blunders the following week. Part of the reason for this is that De Gea had difficulty in focusing in a match, caused by an identified imperfection in his right eye. The condition, know as hyperopia, was found by doctors in January of last year, with De Gea going under the surgeons knife in the summer of the same year. This seems to have corrected the problem, but extra work with goalkeeping coach Eric Steele has also helped the player to work on his focus during matches too. Recently De Gea’s form has improved dramatically and for the first time United are seeing consistency from their young goalkeeper, as he plays a lead role in helping United to close in on their potential record twentieth league title.
With form comes renewed interest, especially from his native Spain. Barcelona in particular are on the look out for a new goalkeeper after current no. 1, Victor Valdes shocked the club by announcing his intentions to leave the Nou Camp this summer for pastures new. With a tendency to buy young and favouring home-grown players, De Gea is seen as an ideal replacement so Barcelona will likely put together a package to try to tempt him back to Spain. Ferguson is unlikely to want to sell, but like his rival at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, may have little say in the matter if the player sets his heart on joining Barcelona. The Spanish club may offer cash plus Valdes in a part exchange which will soften the blow for United especially if they managed to pick up a goalkeeper of Valdes quality but Ferguson is starting to grow fond of his young shot stopper. The aging United manager has a history of rebuilding teams and blooding youngsters into his squads before making them into champions. De Gea is very much part of his plans for a new look United featuring the likes of Smalling, Jones, Cleverly, Powell and Welbeck so will be reluctant to change his plans. But never the sentimentalist, Ferguson will do what is right for the club and for the player. If De Gea is to leave, he will go with Ferguson’s blessing, safe in the knowledge that he was part of a small piece of United history.