By Mark James
Gary Neville tore into David De Gea following yet another high-profile error in the final stages of Manchester United’s game at White Hart Lane on Sunday afternoon and, if the former Madrid man’s fingers weren’t already longing for the warmer climates of the Mediterranean, he was likely to have received a frosty enough reception back in the dressing room to have him dreaming of a quick journey home.
At this moment in time, David De Gea can’t do right for doing wrong. During a game in which he made saves 90% of Premier League goalkeepers would have failed to make, he still ended up as the villain of the piece, flimsily punching at a ball he should have been plucking out of the air with consummate ease.
Of course, therein lies the conundrum which is David De Gea’s Premier League and Manchester United career. Does Sir Alex ship him back to a league where goalkeepers punching at crosses and being wrapped in cotton wool by referees is the norm? Or does he stand by his man (a rather slender one at that) and wait for the day when his physique, confidence and focus, matches his undeniably impressive shot stopping abilities?
It seems clear that one of the biggest influences upon De Gea’s inability to affirm himself as United’s number one is his somewhat willowy body shape. While one would like to think that the Spanish international’s training regime would have seen him bulk up in the manner Ronaldo was able to do, or that a number of trips to Maccy D’s might provide an immediate solution to the problem, De Gea is practically of the same stick thin build we saw when he first arrived at Old Trafford.
What makes matters worse is the fact that the Premier League is the ideal place for his physical failings to be taken advantage of. Never before has a defensive corner been of such instant concern to the legions of fans who turn out to see the team each and every week, and perhaps it is starting to become a genuine concern that needs to be addressed sooner, rather than later.
As Barcelona reportedly circle, it would be unfair to throw all of the criticism at the feet of a man still bedding into a setup which no doubt dwarfs Atlético Madrid’s in terms of size and pressure. De Gea made a number of excellent saves against Tottenham and, were it not for his single mistake, would have been appropriately lauded for a display which grabbed United all 3-points. The problem lies in the fact that this is exactly what is expected from United goalkeepers. Peter Schmeichel did it and Edwin van der Sar did it.
Bosnich, Taibi, Howard, Foster and many more, could not. These players were all sent to pastures new and, unless he is able to take note of the criticism he will have received at 5.45PM on Sunday afternoon, De Gea may be yet another Manchester United goalkeeper who simply wasn’t good enough.