When Manchester United missed out on a goalkeeper of Manuel Neuer’s calibre to replace the flying Dutchman Van Der Saar only to sign this lean, cat-like-reflexive Spaniard back in 2011, not many supporters welcomed that move, so much so for a record fee of around £17.8 million (British record for a goalkeeper). Now, Manchester United’s Spanish shot-stopper David De Gea is set to sign a new deal that would enable him to stay at the club until 2018 while the current contract runs out in 2016. A supposed pay-hike that will take him past the £75,000 mark is said to be offered and deservedly so after a spectacular last tenure with the Premier League champions, having played a key role in the process. Very few could have foreseen this kind of remarkable rise in his performance and consistency levels after all the criticism he had to endure in his first season for Manchester United.
Much of his improvement in terms of performances, a continued exhibition of match-saving saves have to be attributed to the club’s ex-goalkeeping coach Eric Steele. It was pretty evident from Steele’s recent interview that he had played a pivotal role in shaping up David De Gea’s Premier League career and in making him one of the most sought after goalkeepers in Europe. His pride was apparent as he talked of the Spaniard’s transformation into the goalkeeper voted on to the Professional Footballers’ Association team of the year last season.
Eric Steele said David initially had ‘some issues’ with the English game. David apparently weighed ‘just 71 kilos’ and had to be beefed up in the first place in order to compete in one of the most physical leagues in the game. So, Steele had to change his diet that involved controlling his intake of tacos and regulate his training schedule – extra minutes on the pitch. Most importantly, Steele stressed on the importance of ‘communication’ with the defenders which when flawed, leads to errors. Hence he made David work hard off the pitch too, on his English and he himself had to learn a few Spanish words for better interaction.
Those numbers from the last two seasons indicate the overall development of the goalkeeping abilities of the Spaniard. The ‘number of goals per game’ has reduced considerably in the 2012-13 campaign, having started a game less than the previous season. And the Spaniard has conceded three goals less in his title-winning campaign and is hoping to reduce the number even further this time around. Having said that, he isn’t a finished article yet. He still has issues to address as stated by Eric. He has been struggling with handling set-pieces and has to improve his ‘punching’ ability.
New Manager David Moyes has unsurprisingly brought in his own backroom staff to work with the team. Chris Woods who’s replaced Eric Steele seemed to have slid into his role well. It’s still early days and Moyes will be expecting Chris to give his all, in improving the current #1 on all fronts since his form will prove pivotal in reclaiming the league title.
Having narrowly won the last game at the stadium of light, largely due to the Spaniard’s first-half save (overshadowed by Adnan’s brace) which Peter Schmeichel described as one of the best he’s ever seen, Manchester United and David De Gea will be looking to build on with that, hoping to put in a string of similar performances in the next few games. As the now famous Stretford End banner says, the supporters can be assured of a good night’s sleep whenever ‘Dave Saves‘.