On November 7, De Gea will celebrate its 30th anniversary. An age that marks the peak for many goalkeepers but a milestone that for the Spanish goalkeeper almost looked like a double or a half. Voted best player of the season by Manchester United fans in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018, he had since chained much more mediocre seasons, alternating a few moments of grace with gross mistakes, at club as with the Spanish selection.
That hadn’t stopped him from extending a little over a year ago until 2023, with a pay hike that made him the highest-paid goalkeeper in the world. But he remains one of the most divisive topics within the Red Devils fan community.
Pride and strength of character
In recent matches, however, even his fiercest critics have struggled to find fault with the performance of the Spaniard, decisive in the league against Newcastle, elected man of the match after the victory at the Park against Paris SG (2-1) in the League Champions and who kept their clean sheet against Chelsea (0-0), in a match where the Blues were not, it is true, very threatening. Before this streak, however, the pressure was very strong on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to send De Gea to the bench.
Manchester then displayed the most permeable defense in the Premier League with 11 goals conceded in three matches, including a terrible 6-1 at Old Trafford against Tottenham and with Spain, against Ukraine in the League of Nations (1-0) , his placement on the decisive goal a quarter of an hour from the end had also been strongly criticized. “We don’t have the right to always blame the same player. I think that is not elegant and it is unfair“, defended coach Luis Enrique after the match.
Getting out of such performances when his place seemed threatened is the mark of a strength of character and a very strong pride, and for many observers the reason for this regain of form has a name: Dean Henderson, the very promising young goalkeeper returned this summer from a very convincing loan with Sheffield United last season.
Finally a real competition
Henderson had also taken advantage of his tenure in the League Cup against Luton and Brighton to show that he was ready to take over. “People wonder why we brought Dean Henderson back, it’s just to say to David: You have competition now“, said the former Red Devil (2003-2015) Darren Fletcher at the microphone of BT Sports.
Former De Gea substitute, Argentinian Sergio Romero (33) “was happy to be just a second choice, whereas now David has a real rival for the number one spot and it forces him to make the best of himself”, had continued the former midfielder. Remaining at the club this summer, Romero isn’t even on the list of players United can call on in the Champions League or the league.
For De Gea, however, this improvement remains to be confirmed against Leipzig on Wednesday in the Champions League (9 p.m.), because Liverpool with Alisson and Manchester City with Ederson have proven that without a dominant goalkeeper, the title road is definitely blocked.