In the modern game of football, the role of the goalkeeper is arguably the least glamorised position on the football field, as whilst fans and pundits alike can become too heavily preoccupied with the attacking stars and goalscorers on show, the man in between the sticks often becomes easily forgotten about. This however, has certainly not been the case with Manchester United, whose star player over the last five years, in terms of quality and consistency in their performances, has unquestionably been David De Gea.
It has of course been amongst hot debate on whether the Spaniard is the best goalkeeper on the planet over the last two years now, but his performance against Sevilla on Wednesday night should silence any doubters who do not rank De Gea at number one spot, when comparing goalkeepers.
On the verge of half-time, as Jesus Navas whipped his cross in to the back post, it was a heart in mouth moment for United fans as for the split second that Luis Muriel got his head to the ball, it simply had to have been a goal. Fortunately for the Red Devils, De Gea was there to the rescue, as ever, and bailed his side out of some mediocre defending. The save, in which he had no right to make, was however just a small snippet of what the Spaniard is capable of, with that sort of world class performance becoming an expectation amongst all those who watch him in action, on a weekly basis.
This plain sailing in the side has however not always been the case for De Gea in a United jersey and his rise to the top, after such a troubled start to his career in England, is a further testament to the position he finds himself today. Having left Atlético Madrid at the age of just 19, the Spaniard arrived in Manchester having to fill the gloves of the great Edwin van der Sar, whose predecessors even before him had set such a longstanding expectation for United fans, when it comes to their club’s goalkeeper.
After a tricky start to his United career, with the media slamming the young Spaniard with every mistake he made, one would certainly not have been surprised if De Gea himself had at one point regretted the move from his home nation, specifically with these high expectations that were mounted on him, despite it being his debut season. The decision to leave his boyhood club Atlético, a club that boasts a legacy of maintaining a closely knitted society, particularly with their Spanish players, is perhaps one that doesn’t earn its deserved recognition.
Having just won the Europa League and establishing himself as the club’s no.1 starter under new manager Quique Sánchez Flores, De Gea was certainly living the dream that he once must have been visualising since he joined the Spanish club at the age of just 13. The decision however to pack his bags and join the biggest club in world football, whilst still being this raw and inexperienced talent, can be therefore be seen as nothing short as courageous and simply stimulating.
Despite a rather rocky debut season, De Gea and United have however not looked back since and his individual achievement of winning the Sir Matt Busby player of the year three out of six full seasons at United, further reiterates what a wonderful servant he has been for the club. Every United fan will of course be praying that the Spaniard remains with the club until he retires, as there are virtually no other options across Europe, that would provide as a satisfactory replacement for United’s beloved Dave. Regardless however, of whether De Gea remains or leaves, there can be no questioning the legacy that he has already established at the club in a relatively short time and is undoubtedly the best goalkeeper on the planet, at present.