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At a time when the club seems to be shrouded in doom (IPO, owners, failed attempts at signings), last night’s entertaining but goalless draw against Barcelona provided a stark reminder that Fergie will have one hell of a problem next year: his goalkeeper.
You’d imagine it’s a fairly straightforward decision. De Gea ended the season as first choice; he’s got the #1 on the back of his shirt; and a large sum of money was spent on him. Yet, Anders poses a fascinating dilemma, and even further down the line, Ben and Sam won’t want to be just periphery figures.
Sporting a new haircut, De Gea’s return for United last night was triumphant. Fergie tried to deflect attention off De Gea though, choosing to praise his opposite number, Pinto, maybe in attempt to emphasise the fact we’d created some good chances – a nice change against that opposition. The truth though, was that De Gea had been near flawless.
A few inaccurate punts aside, he’d dominated his area, made good saves – particularly those that required him to come off his line quickly, and in general just seemed to be calm. It’s both scary and incredible to think that at just 21, he’s already developing into a truly superb goalkeeper.
Yet, he still has his doubters. Those who choose to judge him in his early days, notably, Paddy Barclay, have been called out a few times by prominent United blogs, ROM and United Rant. Having won the press over though, De Gea’s still yet to be appreciated by fans of other clubs:
De Gea is a fucking awful keeper
— Dominic Giovanni (@DominicGiovanni) August8, 2012
We’ll be having the last laugh though. A lot of the criticism he received was fair at the time but having learnt from his errors he proved to be as much the reason that United got so close to City as opposed to the reason we finished behind them. David can’t afford errors this season though – a year into his United career, fans will be less sympathetic and so might the manager who showed last year he’s not afraid to leave the Spaniard out should things not go to plan.
The man who profited from De Gea’s misfortune was Anders Lindegaard. His return from injury coupled with De Gea’s selection for the Olympics meant that he was first choice for the first part of pre-season. Whilst rarely tested in South Africa and China, he was as solid and consistent as ever. In the short time he’s been at the club, Anders’ 13 appearances have shown him to be a dependable goalkeeper. Whilst few saves necessarily stand-out, no errors do either.
Anders’ new four year deal signifies belief on his and the club’s part that he can push David all the way. I think he loses out to De Gea though because he’s just too all-rounded; there is no particular aspect of his skill-set that stands out as being spectacular. He, meanwhile won’t want to simply sit on the bench (or pick his nose). You get the feeling he knows he’s too good to be a number two but also loves the club and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Further down the line, Ben Amos and Sam Johnstone have both signed new deals in the past few months. Ben’s gone on loan to Hull for the season with reassurances that he’s still good enough to challenge at United in the long-term. Ben’s probably the best goalkeeper we’ve produced in a long time, he’s seriously talented but just needs regular action. Sam, whilst young, has already been earmarked by Fergie as someone who’ll develop into a top goalkeeper. He may be just 19 but he’s already played in League One and looks set to be third choice this coming season.
It’s been a long time since United were so well stocked in the goalkeeping department. Whilst Kuszczak and Foster were good deputies to Edwin, neither were regularly convincing. The situation United will want to avoid though is the Carroll/Howard saga where neither goalkeeper is the clear first choice.
Personally, I’d be choosing De Gea. I think he’s shown himself to be a quick learning, he has brilliantly terrible facial hair, and given his age he has all the makings of a great. If he proves he’s now sorted aerially, he has the full package with some bonus star quality when it comes to reactions, reflexes and generic saving. In the long term that might mean Lindegaard moves on, it would be with a heavy heart but understandable. Whilst concerns about midfield, left back and the situation off the pitch rumble on, the goalkeeper position provides a welcomed problem but one that can’t be allowed to linger too long.