The stats back it up: Manchester United’s David De Gea may well have come of age in the biggest Premier League clash of the season so far.
In the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the Manchester derby this afternoon, De Gea had much to prove. Having only started 13 out of a possible 23 first-team games before today, it seemed De Gea had failed to secure the confidence of his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson.
Into his second season with the Old Trafford outfit, the 22-year-old Spanish international has been constantly rotated with teammate Anders Lindegaard and had consequently failed to cement his place as United’s No. 1.
After today’s man-of-the-match performance, that all should change.
It has been well documented that De Gea’s biggest weakness has been his failure to deal with set pieces effectively and take command of high balls into the box.
In the heat of the derby, De Gea passed all tests.
He was blameless for the two goals conceded, looked comfortable on the ball with 47 touches, dealt confidently with high balls—winning 100 percent of his aerial battles (according to WhoScored.com)—and, above all, seemed completely at ease in the high-profile fixture.
De Gea was busy, too.
His shot-stopping ability has rarely been brought into question, and he confounded this by making seven saves, including a fantastic double stop prior to Yaya Toure's scoring and a Peter Schmeichel-like save off his shoulder to deny David Silva.
The Spaniard has now settled into his English environment: Reports earlier in the season that De Gea was homesick and wanted to return to Spain were quickly dispelled via comments made to The Sun:
I am happy at United and not thinking about a return to Spain. I’ve accepted the challenge to learn and improve as a professional. Fighting for my place gives me a bigger incentive to play well.
De Gea also just turned 22 last month, and it is also worth mentioning that Joe Hart, England’s No. 1 and opposite number in the derby, was the same age when he finally escaped from the shadow of the experienced Shay Given and became first choice for Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City.
So maybe, just maybe, David De Gea has come of age. The timing is right for him to remain United’s first-choice goalkeeper and finally prove his critics wrong.
This writer certainly thinks so anyway...
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