David de Gea was 19 years old at the time, but the first five minutes of the 2009/10 Europa League semi-final between Liverpool and Atletico Madrid at Anfield was enough to get him on his way to Manchester United, and a decade in which he was regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
“I sat next to it [former Liverpool and England keeper] He and Ray Clemence asked who I’m watching, “Eric Steele, United’s goalkeeping coach from 2008-2013, told ESPN.” Well, United don’t sign players from Liverpool and my field is a goalkeeper so it was pretty obvious I was there To see david. I had seen him for the first time a few years ago and had monitored him ever since.
“Ray wasn’t impressed at first. He saw David, lean and slim, and said it wasn’t much for him. But within five minutes of kick-off, David had made a couple of big saves and then came off his line” around a corner to evacuate with a truly commanding blow. Ray turned to me, his eyes lit up and he said, ‘Yeah, you definitely have a goalkeeper.’ “
Fast forward to today, and De Gea is on the bench with Spain at Euro 2020, while doubters are now wondering if we’ll ever see this determined, confident De Gea again.
After a turbulent career for club and country, the 30-year-old is fighting for his future and his reputation. There were costly mistakes that resulted in his losing his No. 1 role for club and country, and even Steele, the man who persuaded Sir Alex Ferguson to sign him for United in 2011 before German Manuel Neuer, admits that his old protégé has a decisive summer ahead of him.
“[De Gea] Got to wonder what he was doing in the headlines for all the right reasons, how to get back there, and what to change, “said Steele.” It has to be the mentality. It’s not his way of coming out and telling people, but inside he’ll know that he really needs to start performing for who he was. “
At De Gea there is uncertainty everywhere at the moment. Athletic Bilbao’s Unai Simon has taken over Spain’s number 1 at Euro 2020 and De Gea does not know if he will regain Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s trust as United’s first choice goalkeeper after beating Dean Henderson for Premier League games towards the end was replaced last season. Henderson’s retirement from the English squad due to a hip injury could still play in De Gea’s favor if the problem disrupts his teammate’s preparations but in the short term Simon is the main obstacle in De Gea’s path.
– Euro 2020 on ESPN: stream live games and replays (USA only)
– European Soccer Pick ‘Em: Compete to win $ 10,000
– Euro 2020 bracket and schedule
“David has a big challenge against Simon,” said Steele. “He’s established in Bilbao, he’s in great physical shape and he’s got more to come at 23.
“I observe [Simon] in a game against Barcelona. The score was 1-1, Barca had a free kick with the last kick of the game and he came 12 meters from his line to take the ball. I rewound it and looked it back and I said ‘wow’. I like that with a keeper. The only thing about Simon is that he’s in command. “
De Gea was selected by United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for the Europa League final against Villarreal in Gdansk last month. could prove to be his last act in a United shirt.
But how did it come about?
De Gea is United’s highest paid player, earning £ 375,000 a week since signing a new four-year deal in 2019, offered due to his consistency at the goal. He has been named United’s Player of the Year four times in the past eight seasons and has been named to the PFA Premier League Team of the Season five times over the same period.
There’s no denying that De Gea made some painful mistakes, but he also excelled in the Europa League semi-final second leg against Roma and clearly retains the ability to do his best. There has been a decline, however, as Spain’s poor performance at the 2018 World Cup was preceded by a number of uncharacteristic mistakes for United. Three years later, the gradual deterioration in De Gea’s performance and lack of consistency have resulted in him losing his club and international seats to Henderson and Simon respectively.
“It’s not just up to David,” a source told ESPN. “When he got to United he had Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic in front of him, he could play a short pass to Paul Scholes or Michael Carrick and never see the ball lose to his opponent, or he could send Wayne a long ball to Rooney or Robin van Persie and know it would stay, which would allow him to turn the defense into attack very quickly for United, but what does he have now? He has bad center-backs ahead of him, like Fred and Aaron Wan-Bissaka couldn’t keep the ball when they received it, and until Edinson Cavani came, no one was able to keep the ball forward.
“United contributed to his loss of form by having no players around. And the split and the change of coach since Ferguson’s departure in 2013 have not helped him: in 10 years he also had six goalkeeping coaches at the club.”
That blunt assessment is shared by Steele, who admits that being insecure about the players around a goalkeeper can hurt their confidence.
“David has many [defensive] Combinations in front of him, but every goalkeeper likes stability, “said Steele.” The team’s spine is massive. Stability in front of him would certainly help – it would help Henderson too – but there have been so many changes, with Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, and sometimes Scott McTominay playing with Harry Maguire.
“You have to develop a relationship with the two central defenders. It’s important, certainly in set pieces. This season United have not done well on that front and people have targeted the team – not just the goalkeepers, but the team as well “a whole because of the way they defended themselves.
“David has to build his own game and then work on relationships with his two center-backs because they have to be his best friends on the team.”
De Gea at Man United
Statistically, De Gea’s United numbers underscore his reputation as one of the best goalkeepers in the world. He has conceded 154 goals in 441 appearances. If he had been a striker with 154 goals in 441 games, he would have been in the same league as Ruud van Nistelrooy and Scholes.
De Gea’s pedigree is why Solskjaer is still unsure of what to do with his goalkeepers. Sources have told ESPN that De Gea is considered by United as their best goalkeeper and is still young enough to continue playing for another 10 years, but Henderson’s progress over the past 12 months has propelled him into the first team and none is likely to calm down as a replacement for the next season.
“David’s not a pout,” a United source told ESPN. “When the manager picked Dean for the final two months of the season, David accepted that as the nature of the job and worked as hard as ever to get back to his best, but also to help Dean.
“There’s a perception outside of the club that David is a loner or someone who doesn’t mix well, but that’s not the case. He’s popular and has the absolute respect of every one of his teammates.”
De Gea is also popular with the club’s staff, regularly accompanying office workers and equipment men to gigs in Manchester and paying tickets for heavy metal bands like Avenged Sevenfold before the pandemic. “He took the kit men to see Slipknot the last three times they were at Manchester,” the United source said.
But away from the club, De Gea in Manchester has lived a quiet, sometimes lonely existence and that is unlikely to change if he stays with United.
Don Hutchison suggests that Man United should focus on signing Raphael Varane over Sergio Ramos.
De Gea’s longtime partner, singer Edurne Garcia Almagro, flew to Manchester for the final weeks of the season after the birth of daughter Yanay (De Gea lost his place to Henderson after returning to Spain for birth in March). The couple have had a long-distance relationship throughout their time in England, with Edurne continuing to live in Madrid. His domestic situation can still affect whether he will stay at United this summer or look for a move. While sources have said they expect him to stay at least one more season to recapture his # 1 spot at Old Trafford, it is true that his social network in Manchester has been compromised over the past few months, which just feels like Uncertainty about his future.
De Gea was close to Sergio Agüero and the Argentine advisor Ruben Dominguez. The former Manchester City striker hosted regular barbecues for the Spanish-speaking players at United and City. With Agüero moving to Barcelona this summer and following Dominguez, De Gea’s social environment will continue to diminish after Ander Herrera moved to Paris Saint-Germain two years ago, David Silva returned to Real Sociedad in Spain last year and the goalkeeping coach Emilio Alvarez left United in 2019.
The closure of Manchester’s Tapeo and Wine restaurant last September, run by Juan Mata’s father, Juan Manuel Mata Rodriguez, was another blow to De Gea as it was a natural gathering place for everyone in his circle, including both Mata and Mata his father. and city defender Aymeric Laporte.
“David has a small group of friends in town and all Spanish-speaking players would be meeting,” a Manchester-based Spanish agent told ESPN. “He always seems happy at United despite suggestions that he doesn’t like England and the general view among his family is that he will stay and fight to play.”
The way forward
If he leaves United, De Gea’s options will be limited. While his salary would be a stumbling block for even the richest clubs, his difficult relationship with the Spanish media has not convinced him of the merits of returning to the league.
A dream move back to Spain with Real Madrid in 2015 suffered a last minute breakdown and with Real and Barcelona now both happy with Thibaut Courtois and Marc-Andre ter Stegen respectively, a return to Atletico only seems feasible if the Spanish champions unload the highly rated Jan Oblak. Given De Gea’s distrust of the Spanish media due to the severity of criticism he faces for playing poorly for the national team, sources have said he is in no rush to push for a move to La Liga.
Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain both have long-term interests in De Gea, but the financial cost of a transfer fee and salaries have both led them to look for cheaper options. All in all, the smart money is on De Gea, who is stuck and giving himself one more chance to save his United career.
“At the moment he will be returning to United unless something changes,” said Steele. “He will expect to come back and go into battle with Dean Henderson again. I don’t think he will consider himself number 2.
“This is probably the biggest slump he’s ever had, and it’s a massive slump in terms of his position. All of a sudden, he has to shape his slump and respond.”
For Steele, the point is for De Gea to get back to basics and remember the qualities that made him the goalkeeper he became.
“There are two words I always use: command and demand,” said Steele. “I still think he can go back to the incidents when he was struck early in his United career, when he came and commanded, took the ball and hit really well. Demand is about getting more of the people to ask who stand before him. ” If the two center-backs aren’t having the best of times, he’ll have to ask more of them.
“That could say something at halftime about getting tighter or falling deeper, because tactically he knows the game and there he has to ask more of others. But David definitely has it in himself to get back to his best.
“Don’t write him off – he’s a strong character and he has the mindset and technique to do it.”