If it’s fascinating quotes that you’re after, a la Eric Cantona, Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Roy Keane pearls of wisdom, then David De Gea is not your man.
“Important win and 100 clean sheets I never imagined I would reach that figure,” he tweeted on Sunday night after keeping a fifth clean sheet in six games as Manchester United won 4-0 against Everton. “Thank you all.”
The one game in which De Gea did concede was against Stoke City, a 2-2 draw in which he made one of the best saves of his career, a reflex dive to deny former Real Madrid striker Jese. He was asked how he contrived such an incredible feat of human achievement and athletic mastery.
“I don’t know,” said De Gea on MUTV. “I’ve made some good saves over the whole of my career and that one was a really good one.”
Thanks for that, Dave. Although he did then add: “It was unlucky that after the save they scored a goal but it was a really good save.”
De Gea can say as much or as little as he wants and you can understand his reticence to open up since his words would likely be twisted into a “De Gea wants to join Real Madrid” story. What matters to United fans is that he’s still at Old Trafford and playing as well as he’s ever done.
The 26-year-old is a genuine candidate to be called the best goalkeeper on planet and, in the words of former United full-back and current TV pundit Gary Neville, who was at Old Trafford for the Everton game, is United’s one genuine world-class player.
If you picked a World XI, you’d want De Gea between the sticks but would any other United player make the side? Paul Pogba should in a year or two, while maybe Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial will as well one day. Zlatan Ibrahimovic would have been a contender for much of the last decade, but the best in the world play for Barcelona and Real Madrid, though Paris Saint-Germain disrupted that by signing Neymar.
That’s why Madrid wanted De Gea, a Madrileno who has wanted to go back to his home city several times. It’s understandable, given Madrid are consistently a better team than United and they play where his friends and family live. And yet, thanks to a fax machine, United’s financial power and Keylor Navas’ popularity, De Gea has stayed at Old Trafford and is now in his seventh season at United.
De Gea has not conceded a goal at Old Trafford since April and his manager, with whom he has a solid relationship, saluted him after the Everton victory.
“It’s even more difficult when you don’t touch the ball,” said Jose Mourinho. “You are in the game, you don’t touch the ball five, 10, 15, 25 [minutes], you don’t even smell the ball. When you are sleeping you don’t touch the ball for minutes and minutes and minutes and then have an important moment in the game. So it’s even more difficult and even more important. The ball goes there and you have to be ready for action; it is even more difficult.”
De Gea was always ready. Ready to stop his former captain Wayne Rooney, whose hair he had ruffled pre-match as a form of greeting, after half-time when Everton came out looking more assured. Ready when Gylfi Sigurdsson might have thought he was about to score a fourth Old Trafford goal in as many seasons. Ready for an effort by his fellow countryman and Everton substitute Sandro Ramirez, who scored at Barcelona’s Camp Nou last season but could not repeat the feat at Old Trafford.
United’s No. 1 goes about his business with maximum efficiency. He’s unlikely to play against Burton Albion in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night and deserves a couple of days to rest, since he’s set to play more games this season as the starter in the Champions League as well as the Premier League. That’s a shame for his back-up Sergio Romero, who barely put a foot wrong in the Europa League matches last season.
De Gea is settled and content in Manchester. He gets on well with fellow goalkeepers Romero and Joel “The Cat” Pereira. Madrid are likely to be linked again and are an enticing proposition to any player, let alone one who hails from the Spanish capital. But, as United improve and climb out of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson slump, so staying becomes more attractive.
The season is yet young but, at the opposite end to De Gea, United have scored more goals in their opening five league games than at any time since 2011-12, when one win was an 8-2 victory over Arsenal. They wouldn’t be enough to set up a league title win; Man City became champions on goal difference and it already appears that this season’s race will be headed by Manchester giants.
The 2011-12 campaign was De Gea’s first in England and Ferguson and goalkeepeing coach Eric Steele stuck by him in the face of criticism, some of which came from United fans. That loyalty and absolute belief in his talent, something he didn’t receive at his previous club Atletico Madrid, only added to De Gea’s belief that he was at a club with class and patience.
After a rocky first seven months in England, he’s been consistently good for most of his 276 games and is one of the current squad’s longest-serving players; only Michael Carrick, Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones remain from the games in which De Gea made his debut, the the 2011 Community Shield against Manchester City.
We’ll leave the last line about United’s last line of defence to a Liverpool fan on Twitter.
“Most annoying thing about Spain or United is that once you actually beat their defence, De Gea is stood in net and will save everything.”
Andy Mitten is a freelance writer and the founder and editor of United We Stand. Follow him on Twitter: @AndyMitten.