Why David de Gea is Manchester United’s player of the season
In a season where managerial departures and disastrous results have cast a shadow over a turbulent campaign for Manchester United, one man in particular showcased that he could just be on the up in a red shirt.
David de Gea was snapped up during Sir Alex Ferguson’s regime and it is fair to say it was not the easiest of settling in periods. His string of early mistakes were instantly highlighted, as was his tendancy to make saves using his legs, and any margin of error was magnified. Of course, it came with the territory being a goalkeeper for one of the most prestigious clubs in the world and De Gea had to take it on the chin.
Fast forward a couple of years, De Gea was crowned the club’s Players’ Player of the Year (not that there was much competition this season) and the Spaniard also claimed the illustrious Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award.
The former Atletico Madrid shotstopper was then rewarded with a call-up to Spain’s 30-man preliminary squad, perhaps due to Valdes’ injury but nonetheless a proud moment for De Gea.
So could the time finally be upon us where De Gea establishes himself as one of the finest in the world? If based on this season, there is certainly no room for argument.
He kept 12 clean sheets this season and after the much-maligned back-line at the Theatre of Dreams, that is two more than second-placed Liverpool. De Gea was being kept busy for the majority of games, unlike last season, sides were going all out at Manchester United’s defence and De Gea had to cope with many an onslaught. He averaged 2.24 saves a game in the league and also averaged just under two (1.98) saves per goal.
In a season where Manchester United’s back-line has rarely featured on a game-by-game basis, De Gea has accustomed well to his surroundings. His initial problem when he joined the Red Devils was his inability to command his six-yard box – a tentative look came with the Spaniard. He has vastly improved on that part and his handling of the ball has dramatically gone upwards, with a claim success of 95%.
His punching still remains a particular worry with his number at an average of 32%, but if some time is put in to it, like his catching, De Gea will add another perk to his game.
He seems to communicate more with his defence and with the experience of Ferdinand and Vidic departing the club this summer, De Gea will be more vocal than ever next season. A feature he will need if he is ever to pit himself up against the worlds best goalkeepers, although he is not too far in all fairness.
When compared to some of Europe’s finest shot-stoppers, De Gea is a good match despite his young age.
He has made more catches than Joe Hart, Petr Cech, Manuel Neuer and is level with Atletico’s Thibaut Courtois on 87 – a significant indication of his ability to command his area. His distribution accuracy has become a highlight of his game and he is beginning to match his kick with a purpose. His 61% means he is only bettered by Manuel Neuer (90%), who is not put under as much pressure in the Bundesliga, and Courtois (63%).
He has also made the most saves out of all five goalkeepers, with 83 in the Premier League. Whether that is down to United’s lacklustre defence or not, De Gea has still had to be on his tip-toes.
With United’s season one to forget, there are just a few highlights to pick up on. De Gea is one of those and if he can continue his excellent form then there is no reason why he cannot be regarded as one of the finest of the bunch.