Article by Yinka Aboaba, follow him on twitter here: http://twitter.com/#!/yinks90
Considering the huge quality that Edwin Van Der Sar had whoever was going to follow in his footsteps and become the United goalkeeper was always going to be under huge pressure straight from the start.
His replacement the young David De Gea has initially attracted considerable attention due to his young age and slight build, with this in mind it was imperative that he made a strong start. However, after only three competitive games, it is fair to say that David De Gea has not had the best of starts to his Manchester United career where he has conceded three goals in his three appearances of which two from Edin Dzeko and Shane Long shots respectively, he can be held culpable. In both cases he was late to react to shots which he was expected to save. He also looked shaky on occasions against Tottenham on Monday which has increasingly led to close scrutiny over the youngsters performances and his ability to adequately replace Van Der Sar.
The daggers are already out for David De Gea, but he does have an immediate opportunity to atone for his mistakes. Being the clear number one, with games coming thick and fast he will have the the opportunity to really stamp his authority and display his talent. Playing infront of such a young defence against the back drop of injuries to Vidic and Ferdinand has not helped De Gea adapt to life in England and things may not get easier with a tough game against Arsenal coming up at the weekend.
The reasons for the signing of David De Gea are obvious having watched him play for Atletico Madrid and Spain over the last few seasons. Though a raw talent, especially for a goalkeeper, his traits are remarkably similar to his predecessor. He is particularly agile, tall, with strong technical ability on the ball and good composure, signing David De Gea has been to try and enable the Manchester United team to play a similar game in previous seasons where Van Der Sar was between the sticks.
Though last season he let in 11 goals from outside the box in the league, (the highest) he has achieved a lot at such a young age; he saved a penalty on his debut as well as in the European Super Cup last year and he was the man of the match at the Nou Camp last season when Atletico Madrid played Barcelona.
When Eric Steel, the current Manchester United goalkeeping coach joined the club in 2008, Alex Ferguson gave him the task to search round the continent and find a goalkeeper suitable of replacing Edwin. Having watched David De Gea for 14 games, spanning 18 months, the fact that De Gea was Eric’s first choice clearly suggests that he is talented and capable of filling the void that VDS has left. Though extremely young for a goalkeeper, he is actually very experienced for a goalkeeper at the age of 20 having won trophies both at club level and internationally with the Under-17 and Under-21 Spanish National Team. Many people also do not realise that when VDS won his first Champions League with Ajax in 1995, he was 24, so David De Gea is certainly on the right track.
The mains problems facing De Gea is the fact that changing leagues is a massive step at such a young age. The Premier League is a lot more physical than La Liga so he will need time to really adjust. On his league debut, West Brom targeted him and tested him physically, and it appeared to work with him looking uncomfortable coming for crosses as he did at times versus Spurs. Due to his slender frame, he is currently on a weight program similar to what Chicharito and Antonia Valencia did when they first joined the club. Also, there is the language barrier; of all the positions on the pitch, communication is the most important for the goalkeeper since they need to organise the team when defending set pieces. Also, being able to speak the language certainly helps players to settle in. This is one of the reasons why Chicharito was able to hit the ground running fairly quickly last season. Fortunately for De Gea, players like Chicharito, Nani, Evra and Valencia are all able to speak Spanish which should help him to an extent.
The next few Premier League games are vitally important for David. Though the manager and his teammates have publically defended him, already he is under pressure. Thus far his errors have not cost Manchester United, but on current form it is only a matter of time till they do. He is under increased scrutiny playing for a top club. For example, in the Bolton vs. Manchester City game on Sunday, Jussi Jaaskelainen made two mistakes of which the David Silva goal was even worse than the Dzeko goal David De Gea conceded. However, due to the standings of both clubs more will be made of David De Gea’s mistakes. With a strong physical encounter expected in late September away to Stoke, the true acid test for De Gea will be then and we will see exactly how much he has adjusted to the league by then.
It is incredibly early to be judging De Gea especially considering his young age. Man United despite boasting two of the Premierleague’s greatest ever goal keepers in VDS and Peter Schmeichel they have also had some of the leagues more questionable keepers. Few United fans will forget Tiabi’s howler against Southampton and Fabian Bartez also had some colourful moments whilst at United. Roy Carroll and Tim Howard also failed to make the grade at united. With United’s failure to replace Schmeichel quick enough it seems likely that they would have worked even harder to identify a top player in De Gea so as to avoid the problems in the post Schmeichel era. With that in mind if De Gea can shake his early poor performances soon he will surely go on to do great things, and the weekends clash with Arsenal is the perfect time to start. Unless he does find his form the media and opposition fans will continue to criticise.