Ryan Giggs ran the show against Olympiakos on Wednesday night and Robin van Persie was the one to score the crucial three goals, but David de Gea was rightly named Man of the Match, demonstrating why he is one of the world’s best goalkeepers.
He was confident, assured and made a wonderful double save that kept United in the tie.
Written off by many shortly after he arrived from Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2011, De Gea was not up to the physical demands of the Premier League, which was illustrated by his calamitous showing against Blackburn Rovers in December 2011.
Some even called for Anders Lindegaard to be given a starting role in his stead after that game. But not only has De Gea made the No.1 shirt his own, he’s quickly established his name among the best goalkeepers in the world. And he’s only 23 years old.
De Gea Is a Shoo-in for the Premier League’s Goalkeeper of the Season
There haven’t really been too many contenders for United’s Player of the Season—though Wayne Rooney and Adnan Januzaj have been impressive—but De Gea’s consistently excellent performances will ensure he takes that award.
And in a wider context, he’s also been the standout ‘keeper in the Premier League this season.
His sprawling stop to deny Sunderland’s Emanuele Giaccherini at the Stadium of Light will likely be the save of the season. Having taken a step to his left, De Gea acrobatically dived to his right to palm away the Italian’s powerful header at shoulder-height.
And it’s a trick he’s repeated so often since then.
De Gea Doesn’t Have Any Weaknesses as a Goalkeeper
Having added some much-needed weight to his once-spindly frame, as well as looking more assured when claiming the ball from crosses and set-pieces, it’s hard to identify any weaknesses in De Gea’s game.
He’s always been a terrific shot-stopper, kicker and distributor of the ball, which was taken for granted when he was flapping at crosses and getting stranded underneath corners.
Putting on some lean muscle has ensured that the Spaniard still possesses great athleticism. The aforementioned double save wouldn’t have been possible if he had bulked up in the way that many United fans demanded; in fact, it’s questionable whether many ‘keepers in world football would have been able to get to their feet so quickly to make the second save.
Of course, it would be remiss to ignore De Gea’s blunder versus Sunderland in the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg, but mistakes of that nature have now become the exception rather than the rule.
How Good Can De Gea Become in the Future?
There is absolutely no doubt that in the next five or 10 years De Gea could be the No.1 ‘keeper in the world, never mind the Premier League. Thibaut Courtois might well have something to say about that, but it’s clear that pair will be two of the world’s best for the next 15 years.
For De Gea, then, it’s just a case of continuing to build upon his impressive showings over the last 18 months.
Goalkeepers tend to get better as they get older and they decline at a slower rate, too. All of that is to say that De Gea could outlast every player currently in the United squad assuming that he is happy to stay at Old Trafford.
De Gea is probably the one position on the field where there is no worries about performance. We don't have that with any other player.— TinManUnited (@TinManUnited) March 20, 2014
In the Premier League era, United have had two of the all-time great goalkeepers in Peter Schmeichel and Edwin van der Sar—they’ve also had some of the worst, for what it’s worth—and De Gea is well on the way to following in the footsteps of that duo.
Outside of United, however, he faces a different challenge, for he is unlikely to go to the World Cup in Brazil this summer. If he continues his impressive form he will surely be in contention for the Spanish squad sooner rather than later.