While still early on in the season David de Gea has been phenomenal. United’s number one can be argued to be the man that has saved the Reds single-handedly with vital saves vs Southampton, Wolves, and of course West Ham. The end of last season was a painful one for De Gea as he saw 11 penalties pass him before missing his own as Villarreal went on to lift the Europa League. The new season has brought fresh stories of De Gea’s enthusiasm to return from his international exploits in the summer and stake a claim for the position between the stick at Old Trafford.
But what is the story behind De Gea’s return to form?
With the return of Dean Henderson from his various loan spells, many United fans thought it was the beginning of the end for David De Gea last season.Embed from Getty Images
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer brought Henderson back to Old Trafford after an impressive couple of seasons at Sheffield United protecting the net for the Blades in the Championship as well as the Premier League. It is fair to say that at the time, De Gea’s form was not up to his lofty standards of previous years. Under Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, he was considered one of if not the best goalkeepers in world football. The United teams under those respective managers were extremely volatile defensively and conceded a lot of chances as a result. De Gea was excellent at making saves with his feet and had terrific reflexes which got United out of trouble on many occasions. Under Solsjkaer, where United hope to perform more progressively, play out from the bac and from the very beginning, it was clear to see that this did not suit the Spanish goalkeeper and it seemed to materialise in awkward moments at the back from De Gea and his defenders.
Henderson is a keeper who is comfortable with the team playing out from the back and last season we saw he was very vocal and communicated with his back four, this is an attribute that we did not see in De Gea’s game. Therefore, many United fans started to believe that Henderson should be our number 1 keeper. One game that comes to mind is when we went to the Etihad last season and Henderson played a role in Like Shaw’s goal, with an excellent throw to his teammate which led to the goal.
However, deficiencies in Henderson’s games began to appear, one example is the game against Liverpool in the FA Cup where he displayed that he was not very good at stopping shots with his feet, like De Gea. This led to a split in the fanbase where some fans favoured De Gea, and others Henderson.
Solskjaer began using Henderson in the league games towards the end of last season and picked De Gea in the Europa League games. Henderson finished the season well while De Gea failed to save any penalty in Europa League Final penalty shoot-out and also missed a decisive penalty. For many, the decision was done, Henderson should be our number 1 keeper and at the time, seeing the body language and clear lack of confidence from De Gea, it would not have been unjust if Solskjaer went down that route. Henderson missed the beginning of the season with Covid which meant that De Gea would start this season as our Number 1.Embed from Getty Images
5 games in, majority if not all fans are of the opinion that De Gea is our number 1 and is clear of Henderson. Against Wolves, De Gea was phenomenal and produced a double save to ensure United took the three points. Against Southampton, he denied Armstrong when he was through on goal to stop United from losing. It feels that he has regained his confidence and he is now making important saves in key moments. This feels reminiscent to how he performed under Van Gaal and Mourinho.
De Gea has also looked composed when playing out the back so far. He has produced 14 accurate long balls, against Newcastle his long ball to Greenwood eventually led to Bruno’s goal. Up until the West Ham game, De Gea had not saved a penalty since 2016, that all changed when he denied Mark Noble from the spot in virtually the last kick off the game to bring the three points back to Old Trafford, Huge praise must be given to De Gea for seizing his opportunity as he is now, unquestionably, our number 1.