Manchester United: Why David De Gea Was the Difference Maker for United

Dan Talintyre@@dantalintyreSenior Analyst IIJanuary 21, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 20: David De Gea of Manchester United celebrates as Robin van Persie of Manchester United scores the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane on January 20, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Manchester United might feel hard done-by after Clint Dempsey's injury-time goal gave Tottenham Hotspur a share in the spoils at White Hart Lane.

Having led for the majority of the match, United looked to have done enough to secure all three points from the North London club. That was until Dempsey netted home from close range in the waning minutes to earn Andre Villas-Boas side a deserved 1-1 draw against the league leaders.

Sir Alex Ferguson's men will be frustrated at themselves, having let points drop late that they should have well and truly secured in the final minutes.

However, having said that, it must also be recognized that a point away to Tottenham Hotspur in the snow is still a very strong result for the Manchester club.

Especially when you consider that it could have been a whole lot worse for the Red Devils had they not had David de Gea in goal in this one.

Criticized heavily throughout the season so far for his inadequacies, De Gea turned in one of his finer performances for the league leaders and turned out to be the difference maker for United in a close, tight encounter this weekend.

He is perhaps the only reason that United were not already trailing in this match when Clint Dempsey turned home his injury-time goal.

Tottenham Hotspur had dominated through the middle and out on the right flank for the majority of the second half, with the statistics presenting a telling picture as to just how much defending Manchester United had to do throughout the game.

According to WhoScored, the North London club finished the match with more possession, more field position and substantially more shots that United.

Tottenham had 25 efforts on goal—19 of which were either on target or blocked—compared to just five attempts on goal for the Red Devils.

In the second half alone, Spurs had 18 attempts on goal.

United had just two.

Center backs Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic turned in strong performances as per usual—as did Rafael Da Silva out on the right to minimize the impact of Gareth Bale—but even still, Tottenham simply continued to attack the United goal.

And it wasn't as if these attempts were hopeless, long-range efforts either. No, many of these were quality, key goal-scoring opportunities—opportunities in which De Gea rose to the occasion and showed himself to be world-class when needed.

Two moments in particular spring to mind here; the first of which came against Gareth Bale's effort in the first half. The winger had a shot take two deflections en route to the goal, yet the Spaniard was still able to keep it from finding the back of the net.

David De Gea saves Gareth Bale (Credit: 101 Great Goals)

The second instance came when Clint Demspey burst through on goal late in the second half—only to be denied by a brilliant one-on-one save by De Gea.

Few expected that the goalkeeper would be able to repel the striker, and the save was nearly enough to earn his side an undeserved three competition points.

David De Gea saves Clint Dempsey (Credit: 101 Great Goals)

Alas, it was not to be for De Gea or Manchester United, but little can be taken away from the strong performance the 22-year-old had this weekend.

However, that's not to say that he is perfect and no longer suffers from his flaws; there is still great room for improvement in his game at the moment.

The biggest area for concern still remains his aerial strength, which some will see as the reason behind Tottenham's late equalizing goal. De Gea did get a weak punch on the ball, which forced about a scramble in the box which United were unable to clear.

Yet whilst the goalkeeper does clearly struggle in the air, this time, it was not his fault. Defender Nemanja Vidic took out De Gea's room to clear and completely tunneled under him to the point that the 22-year-old could not effectively clear.

So much so that when the goal went in, Vidic could be clearly seen apologizing to the shot-stopper for his clear mistake in getting in De Gea's way.

The United goalkeeper will seemingly struggle in the air on crosses and the like for many years to come, simply because that wasn't the game he was brought up on. Having played for Atletico Madrid for his younger years, De Gea just wasn't used to the crosses and aerial balls that the English Premier League features far more heavily than the Spanish La Liga.

What he was used to was reflex saves, and for that, it's hard to fault him at all. He is brilliant one-on-one and rarely fails to get at least a hand to any effort headed in the way of the United goal—something that La Liga no doubt helped him in.

Reflex-wise, De Gea is one of the best in the English Premier League, and he proved that to be true this weekend against Tottenham Hotspur.

He will still feel responsible for allowing the late goal, but hopefully it does not take away from what was otherwise an excellent performance at the back. He kept United in the game when they should have at least conceded one or two goals and was perhaps the only reason why the Red Devils still walked away from White Hart Lane with something to show for their efforts. 

All of which happened in the driving snow, mind you, which can't have helped his cause in goals at all in seeing and stopping goal-scoring chances.

United will be hoping that De Gea's performance on Sunday was simply a foretaste of what is in store for the remainder of the 2012-13 season.

He was the clear difference-maker for the Red Devils this weekend, and deserves plenty of credit and appreciation as a result.

Was this David De Gea's finest performance for United this year?

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