1. David De Gea needs a defence

    By Aman Pathiara

    When it comes to goalkeepers, the United faithful have had their fingers burned in the past, and this is what has caused the goalkeeper role to become one of such high pressure. While we have had amazing successes such as Peter Schmeichel and Edwin van der Sar, we have also had Mark Bosnich and Massimo Taibi. This essentially divides a United goalkeeper into one of the two camps; you’re either amazing or you’re an immense liability. David de Gea was initially seen as a ready-made replacement for van der Sar (yes, because it’s that easy), due to his reputation for shot-stopping and excellent distribution of the ball, as well as his relatively similar stature. An unconvincing six months later, he’s supposedly the next Taibi. Anders Lindegaard was deemed not good enough for Manchester United by legend Schmeichel last year, and a few clean sheets in some pretty standard matches supposedly make him the Great Dane’s heir. 

    The fact is that though we see United as a club that should attract world-class goalkeeping talent, it appears that we lack this attraction. The fan’s choice, Manuel Neuer, did not even consider a move to United, and it is important to remember where United’s two great goalkeepers were in their careers when they made their moves. Peter Schmeichel was at Brondby, which, with all due respect, is not a big name in Europe, while van der Sar was at Fulham, having been ousted by Gianluigi Buffon at Juventus, probably thinking that his time in Europe’s elite was over. Therefore, a move to United was an easy and attractive move for both players to make. In De Gea, United have attracted a goalkeeper with a world-class reputation for arguably only the second time, after Fabian Barthez. It is also worth remembering that Barthez is considered to have been a failure at United, and he’s won a World Cup and a European Championship.

    My point, essentially, is that United don’t have the pulling power towards goalkeepers that we expect. Furthermore, the difficult nature and intense pressure of the job makes every candidate a potential liability. Weaknesses will be highlighted and scrutinised, and De Gea is simply the victim of being the latest player to take the stick. Who’s to say that if we’d bought someone else, they wouldn’t have the same treatment? Manuel Neuer dropped an absolute clanger in his first game for Munich this year; no doubt the tabloids here would have crucified him, like De Gea was after his mishandling of Edin Dzeko’s long-range strike in his first game. De Gea’s supposed weakness in dealing with long shots at Atletico Madrid would probably have been replaced by reports of Rene Adler’s supposed error-prone nature, or Igor Akinfeev’s previous tendency to concede goals through his legs.

    What does need to be remembered and factored into analysis is that De Gea came with a good reputation, as one of Spain’s brightest young stars, having completely left similar rising star Sergio Asenjo in his dust at Atletico Madrid, having won a UEFA Cup and an Under-21 winner’s medal. He comes endorsed by potentially the best goalkeeper in the world, Iker Casillas. He has, despite his struggles, put in some excellent performances this season for United, making some truly fantastic saves. All of this doesn’t just go away because he has difficulty with crosses and has made a few mistakes. In my opinion, United should be good enough to compensate for any mistakes he may make in this early stage of his career.

    We all accepted that he needed to bulk up before he really finds his feet in the Premier League – has he been afforded the time it takes to do that? The internet gives every fan a voice, and an alarming number of those voices seem quite content to dismiss De Gea as an error of judgement by United’s scouts and would prefer to spend a large sum on a more complete player, while continually singing praises of the great goalkeepers we have had, underlining De Gea’s supposed unworthiness to keep our goal.

    Van der Sar came under intense scrutiny a few seasons back, when he seemingly forgot how to catch a ball and insisted on punching everything in sight. Schmeichel was mental at times, and got lobbed surprisingly often for the huge guy that he was. Yet this is forgotten in the long run, because they had time to sort it out. Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczesny was destroyed by some Arsenal fans after his mistake in the Carling Cup final last year, and if you ask an Arsenal fan now, and they will tell you that they haven’t felt this secure about an Arsenal goalkeeper since the Invincibles. This is because Arsenal stuck with him, gave him time and allowed Szczesny to mature.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: he’s 21 years old, give De Gea some time, some proper time, and he will come good. Stick a constant, experienced defence in front of him and he will come good. Do not sacrifice a hugely promising young goalkeeper because a more complete team in Manchester City threatens to win the league this year. Call it desperate bias, but this is how I see it; the way that last year’s title win doesn’t mean anything now, this year won’t mean anything next year, but this time, we’ll have a world-class goalkeeper with many years at the top to come.

    On a final, unrelated note, is it just me that’s surprised at the level of coverage being afforded to FC Sion’s punishment by the Swiss FA and its implications for Manchester United? A lack of punishment by the Swiss FA would have resulted in Swiss football being suspended by FIFA, meaning that FC Basel, United’s conquerors in the Champions League, being disqualified from the Champions League, and United being reinstated. A total non-story; United don’t deserve to be reprieved after the way we played in the group stages. Pain is a better motivator than a second chance.