David De Gea Plots Path to World Cup and Backs Former Atletico Mates for Success

Paul WilkesFeatured ColumnistApril 9, 2014

Manchester United's goalkeeper David de Gea during their English League Cup semifinal first leg soccer match against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland, England, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
Scott Heppell

It's been a turbulent season for Manchester United, as the exit of Sir Alex Ferguson has hit them hard. Replacing such a successful manager was never going to be an easy task, but few would have envisaged such a drop in standards.

Results have been poor, whilst the lack of a clear style or philosophy has given the critics more ammunition to use on David Moyes. The Red Devils currently sit in seventh place in the English Premier League after winning the competition last year.

The majority of their better matches have come in the Champions League, though there have still been a number of below-par efforts. Last week, they took on the European champions with many expecting them to receive a large beating.

One player that has had a good campaign on an individual basis is David De Gea. The Spaniard has been busier than usual, but his performances have remained at a high standard. The negativity about his age and physique has disappeared, as he has stood up to the doubters and proved those questioning him wrong.

He has changed his positioning when he comes out for crosses and is more aggressive when doing so. His concentration levels have been improving, and he displays better focus for the full 90 minutes.

Injury to Barcelona's Victor Valdes has unexpectedly given the goalkeeper an opportunity to stake his claim for a place on the plane to Brazil. There's plenty of competition for places, as with all the positions for La Roja, but this might just open the door for De Gea.

When asked whether he thought Spain were the favourites for the tournament in the Old Trafford mixed zone last week, he replied:

"In the World Cup, you never know. There are many surprises. If Spain plays as they know how to, they can go far."

His old club Atletico Madrid are top of La Liga and face a second leg in the quarter-final of the Champions League against Barcelona this week. It's a stark contrast from the side he left, which finished ninth and seventh in his two campaigns with the first team.

It's even more remarkable when you consider he was sold for a British record fee for a goalkeeper of around £17.8 million and was then replaced with a loan signing in Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois.

"I think they're having a great year," De Gea told me last week.

"They've got the power to win the league and to go further in the Champions League in their hands, and they also have the return leg in the Calderon in front of their fans. So yeah, it's in their hands."


All quotes gained firsthand.