If Manchester United win their game against Southampton tonight, they will go third in the table for the first time since David Moyes' opening-day victory against Swansea last season, and David De Gea's form is a key part of the Red Devils' revival.
When United beat Everton on October 5, De Gea's heroics began a run of fine performances which is yet to peter out. His save from Bryan Oviedo's shot—which meant United earned a hard-fought three points—seemed to instil confidence in the young keeper.
United fans have seen this before. In February 2012, David De Gea's position as first-choice United keeper was still not certain, with Sir Alex Ferguson often rotating between him and Anders Lindegaard.
De Gea's outstanding save ensured United earned a point, and, later, in April 2012, De Gea cited that moment as a key turning point for him, per the Daily Mail:
I suppose, from a team point of view, and particularly from a personal point of view, the fact the save was right in the last minute was decisive. It gave me a huge confidence boost as well and that was important.
His save from Oviedo was physically reminiscent of his save against Mata, with his outstretched “wrong” arm batting the ball away. His language after the Everton game was also similar. He said, per Sky Sports:
It was probably one of my best performances for Manchester United. I was really happy about that. Games like that helps your confidence grow.
De Gea shone against Arsenal in United's backs-to-the-wall 2-1 victory at the Emirates, making eight saves, per WhoScored.com. Unlike against Everton, most were saves he would be expected to make, rather than outstanding individual moments. However, his consistency helped prove his form.
Against Stoke City on Tuesday night, De Gea again made a remarkable, match-winning save, this time reacting at close range as Mame Diouf tried to get one over his old club. It was a save which spawned a thousand memes.
De Gea's excellence has not gone unnoticed in the wider footballing world. In November, Simon Mullock of the Daily Mirror reported that:
De Gea responded to the rumours, telling Spanish television station La Sexta, (h/t Sky Sports):
It is difficult to say whether a bid will be made by Real, because of all the rumours that appear in the press.
In Manchester I feel wanted. If you took seriously what is written about you, you'd almost think you're going to a thousand clubs. So the best you can do is pay attention to where you are. I feel very loved by Man United.
Nowhere in that statement does De Gea suggest anything about his long-term future, which should be a matter of some concern to United.
Sir Alex infamously struggled to replace Peter Schmeichel when he left in 1999. It was not until Edwin van der Sar was signed that United solved that problem. De Gea may have had a few teething problems when he first replaced the Dutchman, but his form since has meant that there was no repeat of the vacuum left by Schmeichel's departure.
Finding a goalkeeper who can be outstanding for a top-level club is no mean feat. United have done so, and should now move heaven and earth to tie De Gea to a long-term deal. If they do so, De Gea has every chance of becoming one of the all-time Old Trafford greats, and United's chance of a swift return to the top table of European football will be significantly enhanced.