From his first moments in a United shirt, former Athletico Madrid goalkeeper David de Gea has come under heavy scrutiny in regards to his ability to fill the monumental void that was left with the retirement of legendary keeper Edwin van der Sar.
Admittedly in that match—a 3-2 victory over Manchester City in the community shield—the Spaniard did look shaky, letting in a relatively easy looking long-range strike from City's Edin Dzeko.
From then on, the British sporting press have hounded de Gea, in a manner which has on some occasions left this writer wondering if the pundits actually want him to slip up just to give them something to talk about.
It's no secret that the man from Madrid has something of an issue when it comes to dealing with crosses from corners or free kicks. The dilemma has been made more than apparent over the last year and a half, and it would amaze me if Sir Alex Ferguson and his goalkeeper are not making a concious effort to correct this part of the 22-year-old's game.
Like any man starting his career in a professional sport, de Gea will always be prone to making silly errors. This was evident a few weeks back in United's 2-1 home victory against Southampton. What looked like a relatively easy clearance turned into an absolute nightmare for the keeper, as he saw a grievous mistake cost his side the lead.
Eventually, as has been the case so many times this campaign, despite falling behind, United managed to come back and grab all three points. However, that wasn't any use to de Gea, who once more gave the blood-thirsty masses just one more reason to attack his claim to the No. 1 jersey.
The problem for United's man between the sticks is, once a stigma has been placed on your ability, it's very hard to shake it off. That is true in no sport more than it is in football. Only exceptional performances in high-calibre matches are good enough to stir up people's opinions again and potentially sway them.
Wednesday night's heroic display in the UEFA Champions League against Real Madrid, may well be one of these occasions.
Most Manchester United fan's opinions of de Gea won't have changed much after the match. For the most part, he is considered an extremely talented young individual among supporters of the table-cloth army, with the potential to go on and rival some of the greats that have protected the United net over the past century and a half.
Rather, it is the doubters from outside of the club that may have finally sat up and taken note of the quality that de Gea is able to produce on some of the grandest stages.
This display was not a one off, with similar performances coming against the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Chelsea in the league this season—all games against the sides currently sitting in the top four slots of the Premier League table.
Recent rumours (via the Daily Mirror) linking United with a move for Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic are some of the most baffling I have seen in a long while—assuming that Begovic would be being brought in as first-choice keeper.
Certainly, Begovic is a talented player, but shirking aside a keeper that cost the club £18m, after just a year and a half—and more importantly, after what has now been a decent year—when fully fit—of continuously good goaltending—is bordering on the absurd.
One could almost be forgiven for thinking that Roman Abramovich was the man in charge of selecting the United keeper.
David de Gea showed against the Spanish Champions exactly why Ferguson was willing to bring the young man to Old Trafford. The faith in de Gea from some of the more stalwart United fans is starting to really pay off in earnest.
The Red Devils have their Madrid born keeper to thank for having any chance of making it through to the last eight of the Champions League this season.
The silly errors that have blighted his career to date are definitely aspects of his game that will be weeded out over time. Whether through continued experience playing in the Premier League or vigorous training sessions with the coaching staff, de Gea will eventually stop making those blunders from crosses.
When that does finally happen, United will once again be the envy of most other sides across the globe when it comes to the solidity of the man keeping those enemy shots at bay.
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