David De Gea has been a revelation at Manchester United in what has been a difficult season.
Guest Author: Doron Salomon
It came as no surprise that the initial response to United announcing that fans could vote for their player of the year was hashtags (#VoteDave) and campaigns supporting David de Gea. In what’s been a remarkably poor season for the club, he is a rare beacon of light and one of the few players to have improved. For the second season running he should be recognised as the best goalkeeper in the league.
On one hand it’s telling that United’s best player this season is a goalkeeper; on the other hand it shouldn’t detract from what has been a stellar season for de Gea. The competition to be crowned by the fans (and the players) is meagre – this is a squad that at the time of writing boasts just four players (the strikers) with more than four goals for the season; and three players with more than five assists (Rooney, Januzaj and Evra). Rooney, predominantly due to volume of goals (17) and assists (22), will get his share of votes from United’s global fanbase. They are impressive but then they should be given his status in the squad and the fact he takes set pieces. In truth Rooney has been no better this season than in recent seasons – he’s been anonymous in many of the key games (as has everyone) and yes, at times stood out against the league’s lesser teams. With just 17 starts Januzaj probably can’t really be considered but he, like de Gea, has been a source of hope for the future. Other players have done well in patches – Jones’ recent spell at centre back; Evans over the winter period; and Welbeck, whenever he gets the chance tends to do something that makes you smile.
This is also a squad that’s taken its fair share of injury hits – eleven players have missed more than 10 games and everyone bar de Gea, Buttner, Januzaj and Mata has been forced to sit out a game. In fact, that Rafael, Jones, Smalling, Vidic, Ferdinand and Evans have combined missed 73 games due to injury only serves to highlight de Gea’s remarkable competence behind an ever-changing defence. On consistency alone, de Gea should be walking the United voters poll.
Being United’s best player is only one small part of his story this season. He has improved which is something that fans might have feared may not happen when Eric Steele wasn’t retained by Moyes. If last season was about de Gea’s improved physicality and self-belief this time round it’s been about commanding and consistency. At 23 years of age there is barely a flaw in his game. He now barks orders at those around him; he maintains his composure when others don’t; he sets a standard way higher than most of his teammates; and, he makes telling contributions.
Having been named as the goalkeeper in the 2012/13 PFA Team of the Year, his place in that side must be a certainty this time around. The standard of goalkeeping in the league hasn’t been overly great this season. The best goalkeepers certainly haven’t been at the top sides. David Marshall at Cardiff will be an unfortunate casualty of probable relegation; Boruc has had a couple of typically eccentric moments but on the whole has been solid; and Allan McGregor has proved to be a bargain for Hull at £1.5m.
At the top sides goalkeeping has been something of a problem at times. Joe Hart was dropped by Man City; Szczesny had an excellent start but allowed errors to creep into his performances in 2014; Mignolet is fortunate to play in a side that scores freely as he’s never too far from a mistake; Cech is still a very good goalkeeper but hasn’t been without blunders this season; Howard is reliable without being exceptional but had a Boxing Day to forget; Lloris doesn’t look remotely like the goalkeeper Spurs signed last season. David de Gea’s sole error this season came in the League Cup semi-final against Sunderland – of all the players to make such a costly mistake it was uncharacteristic that it was him. It is the only glaring blunder of another fine season.
Indeed, de Gea has been a match-winner or saver on numerous occasions. Januzaj’s goals at Sunderland will be the memorable take-out from a poor game but de Gea’s save at 0-1 was wondrous. Against Olympiakos at home van Persie got the plaudits but de Gea was equally to thank to ensure United progressed. Every single game he does something that he has no right to do – even more so this season given how many dozy defenders have been in front of him letting opposition teams in. (Surprisingly he’s equalled his league total of 11 clean sheets from last season with games to spare).
It is unfortunate that Victor Valdes has been ruled out of the World Cup with an injury but that it opens up a chance for de Gea to go to Brazil would be well earned. Even if he doesn’t play, he should be there, he’s simply too good not to be amongst the world’s elite players. Rumours of a new contract have been swirling around for a couple of months and that is the very least he deserves. He has been United’s best player this season. He has been the league’s outstanding goalkeeper this season. It won’t be long before he’s recognised as one of, if not the best goalkeeper in the world. Let’s just hope he’s still ours when that happens.