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David De Gea Shows He Is Almost Irreplaceable for Manchester United

Paul Ansorge@@utdrantcastFeatured ColumnistSeptember 21, 2015

Manchester United's Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea embraces Manchester United's French striker Anthony Martial (2nd L) after the English Premier League football match between Southampton and Manchester United at St Mary's Stadium in Southampton, southern England on September 20, 2015. Manchester United won the game 3-2. AFP PHOTO / IAN KINGTON

RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.        (Photo credit should read IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images)
IAN KINGTON/Getty Images

Manchester United left Southampton with their spirits lifted and—as he has been so often during his United career—David De Gea was instrumental in the result.

United's last away trip was also a long journey that followed a midweek European tie, and the Red Devils left empty-handed. Had David De Gea been in goal against Swansea City, it might have ended very differently.

Sometimes, when a goalkeeper saves his side points, it can be put down to the player doing his job properly. There are good saves—such as the one De Gea made from Victor Waynama's long-range effort—that while challenging do not enter the realms of the superhuman.

Manchester United @ManUtd

Let's hear it for David De Gea, who was brilliant at Southampton. #DaveSaves http://t.co/z2jBekysDl

Not every 'keeper in the Premier League would have saved that shot—De Gea sprang into action instantly, using his finely tuned reactions and instinctive ability to prevent the goal. However, there are plenty of 'keepers in the league who would have got to it.

Where De Gea is virtually irreplaceable is in his ability to make saves such as the one he pulled off against Jose Fonte. Fonte, speaking to Sky Sports after the game (h/t the Express) simply said, "It was a great save from David De Gea. I thought it was in. He showed why he is considered one of the best in the world."

Rarely has the phrase "I thought it was in" been more apt on a football pitch.

The mechanics of the save look almost ordinary when slowed down in the action replays. De Gea reaches behind his head with his left arm and scoops the ball out of danger.

Still images cannot do De Gea's save from Fonte's header justice.
Still images cannot do De Gea's save from Fonte's header justice.IAN KINGTON/Getty Images

In real time, though, there was nothing ordinary about it. Seen at its natural speed, it was as if De Gea was reaching back into the very fabric of time itself, pressing pause, preventing the goal and then allowing time to restart as normal.

It seems unlikely that many other 'keepers in world football would have pulled off that save. "He showed why he is considered one of the best in the world," as Fonte put it.

United's defence, bereft of Luke Shaw and with Matteo Darmian struggling for form, gave De Gea plenty of opportunities to show how good he is. Graziano Pelle was shown by television cameras before the game apparently giving Maya Yoshida detailed instructions for the kind of deliveries he wanted.

Basti Schweinsteiger @BSchweinsteiger

Second place in the table! Also thanks to @d_deGea 😉 http://t.co/WIyYOTU4YC

He targeted Daley Blind, and it was an effective strategy. He scored twice and hit the post. There has been plenty of evidence of a new-found shakiness in recent weeks. Against PSV Eindhoven, after Shaw went off injured, United struggled to deal with the Dutch champions' counter-attacking.

Against Southampton, they conceded eight shots on target, per WhoScored.com. De Gea, of course, saved all but two of them.

Indeed, the first goal came after De Gea managed a remarkable save from Sadio Mane. He was unable to bat the ball back out of danger, but he at least gave his defenders a chance.

United are probably already two points better off than they would've been if they and Real Madrid had a better handle on their admin. Speaking to Sky Sports, Louis van Gaal said of the save and De Gea's performance, "It was fantastic. Therefore, we are very happy he shall stay with us. That's why we were very difficult in the transfer period for Real Madrid. It is not for nothing."

David de Gea @D_DeGea

These three points are thanks to the whole team's effort. Top @AnthonyMartial C'mon @manutd! http://t.co/pMfBHPYG1n

Thanks in large part to the performance of Anthony Martial, United were able to capitalise on De Gea's heroics against Southampton. Three vital points meant they also capitalised on the weekend misfortunes of their top-four rivals.

The win brought them within two points of Manchester City—a remarkably small margin given how much more effective City have generally looked.

De Gea will likely save United more points as the season progresses. If they can keep him for the duration of his new four-year contract, it will be wonderful news. If the cannot, they will have a very difficult job on their hands. Finding a replacement for a 'keeper such as De Gea looks a nigh impossible task.

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