Manchester United: Sir Alex Ferguson Should Continue to Persevere with De Gea

Thomas CooperFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2013

Sir Alex Ferguson might not want to see the back of David De Gea just yet.
Sir Alex Ferguson might not want to see the back of David De Gea just yet.Clive Mason/Getty Images

Depending on your persuasion, January transfer rumors are either a captivating part of the season or an annoyance best avoided.

The no-nonsense Sir Alex Ferguson almost certainly adheres to the latter belief, but avoiding it is not so easy when you are the story.

An article in the Daily Mirror has Ferguson reportedly looking to offload David De Gea, with neither he nor Anders Lindegaard having sufficiently matched the standards demanded by a club spoilt on the services of Peter Schmeichel and Edwin van der Sar.

The latter part of that is true. What is not so certain is that Ferguson is ready to give up on De Gea just yet.

After alternating for several matches at a time with Lindegaard, the Spaniard has started United's past eight games in all competitions. It is his longest consecutive run of the season, and although it might not signal victory in this duel, it does seem he has become his manager's preferred No. 1 for the time being.

The chance of that "time being" lasting too long is in doubt according to opinions and stories like the one mentioned above. But Ferguson's past experience with goalkeepers and De Gea's differing situation may influence the Scotsman into persevering with him yet.

One significant reason why Ferguson could, and indeed should stick with De Gea, is his youth.

Few players should be written off at 22 years old, especially one they had high enough hopes for that they spent a reported (based on a Guardian article from the time) £17 million on prying him away from Atletico Madrid.

Their experiments in attempting to replace Schmeichel are evidence enough of the merits of working to develop a good young goalkeeper into a great one.

Back then Ferguson sought to find the Dane's replacement from among a series of established and experienced performers in the position—Fabien Barthez, Mark Bosnich, Massimo Taibi and Raimond van der Gouw (although as Schmeichel's back-up since 1996, there was already a pretty good idea of his limitations).

Barthez and Bosnich in particular were two who had proved themselves at the top level, and although the former performed well for a time, neither possessed the requisite qualities as men and goalkeepers to pick up where Schmeichel had left off, partly because their traits as players were already well established with them being in their late twenties.

Van der Sar was a notable exception to these names in that he had some further years on them (except van der Gouw) and was a far superior goalkeeper to begin with. The Red Devils will struggle to find someone who can live up to that and does not cost a fortune.

Pepe Reina and Asmir Begovic were the two names mentioned in the earlier referenced Mirror story as potential replacements for De Gea. The Liverpool goalkeeper is good enough but unlikely to be allowed to move to a rival. Begovic has potential but possesses the doubts that marked the names above.

In following van der Sar, De Gea offers Ferguson a different route to the one he took before: the chance to take a goalkeeper with raw talent and instill in him the necessary attributes to succeed in the English top-flight while molding him into someone capable of holding the position at United for years to come.

Keeping patience with such a project is not easy when the subject has made some notable errors that have cast doubt on that talent. But then what goalkeeper was not without his flaws at 22?

De Gea has been to blame for some of his missteps (such as the misjudged parry that allowed James Perch to open the scoring for Newcastle United in their recent defeat at Old Trafford); however, he has not been helped by the regularly changing and poorly performing defense in front of him.

Those same defenders could point to having a suspect goalkeeper behind them as part of the cause of their struggles. But while De Gea is not a commanding penalty box presence just yet, he is hardly to blame for the lapses in concentration that are so often plaguing his teammates.

That has been the greater cause for concern of late at the back.

Make no mistakem De Gea has improvements to make. But even at a club like Manchester United, where patience has little room to breathe amid such lofty expectations, a quick fix is rarely the answer.

Ferguson will know this better than anyone. One way or another we will soon find out what he has in store for De Gea.


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