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Old 21st September 2017, 14:33   #1
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Default Why David de Gea has been the most important player

Manchester United: Why David de Gea has been the most important player

The Spaniard has quietly been going about his business and it's clear he's back to his very best.

by Ed McBride
Real Sport 101 Sep 19, 2017

Manchester United sit comfortably at the top of the Premier League table, joint with their neighbours Manchester City, who have an identical record. No-one has scored more goals than the Red Devils -and the Citizens-, but it’s at the opposite end of the pitch where their best player can be found.

Jose Mourinho has instilled a newfound ruthlessness into his side, winning three out of five league games by a 4-0 margin, with Romelu Lukaku taking to the number nine shirt like a fish to water and Paul Pogba finally exerting his long-awaited influence on games and contributing both goals and assists.

Even defensively you’d pinpoint the under the radar tackles and interceptions of middle third patroller Nemanja Matic before you’d consider David de Gea as one of their most important players.

But that’s exactly what he is.

The unrealised dream

For the first three years in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson reign, David de Gea was lauded as Manchester United’s best player, winning the club’s player of the year award thrice in succession.

He was the only positive spark in the era of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal. The only thing to bring a smile to the Old Trafford faithful.

However, fans couldn’t simply sit and enjoy de Gea’s athleticism in goal, his wonderful saves and second-to-none shot-stopping ability, as looming over him like a dark cloud was the constant threat of departure.

Even a club of United’s historical allure has to face the reality that Champions League football is everything and then some. Their participation in the Europa League threatened to force de Gea away once Real Madrid dangled the carrot in front of him.

They dangled and dangled, but de Gea could never quite reach it.

Along came Mourinho

Alas Jose Mourinho arrived at Old Trafford to stop the rot and return United to their pedestal of one of Europe’s greatest clubs.

Finally, United had a manager in the post-Fergie era capable of holding on to their best assets in the face of interest from other clubs.

However, like a recurring nightmare, Real Madrid came calling for de Gea once more after fax machine issues scuppered the move the previous season.

Again, nothing materialised and the Spaniard spent the season sulking, essentially, losing form and his place in the side in the process.

When Sergio Romero started the Europa League Final the harsh fact of the matter was that Mourinho wasn’t just picking the ‘keeper that took the Red Devils to the Final, but rather the better option at the time.

Back to work

From the first game of 2017/18 against West Ham, it was clear de Gea was back to his best form. No big media announcement, no public spectacle that he’s a man reformed and refocussed, he simply turned up to work.

Superficially it doesn’t seem as though the Spaniard has been needed as much thus far, with United more in control during matches, but his average saves per game of 2.2 compared to last season’s 1.96 per game suggests the opposite.

Nonetheless, his return to his best form is reflected in the fact that despite a higher number saves per game, de Gea is conceding 0.4 goals per game, less than the 0.83 of 2016/17, keeping four clean sheets in five games.

Perhaps the best indication of his return was the wonder save he made against Stoke City, denying Jese Rodriguez a goal, despite the Potters converting the rebound.

Last season the first attempt would simply have found the net and United would be left scrambling to try and win the game, though in truth that's exactly what went down at the Bet365 Stadium.

A Manchester United legend?

We have some way to go before de Gea can justifiably be considered a Manchester United legend, but what's clear is that he seems wholeheartedly commited to the club once more.


Firstly, United are back in the Champions League and have a realistic chance of winning the Premier League. They're back, they mean business and there's no reason for de Gea to look for a move away in terms of the availability of silverware.

Secondly, Real Madrid reaffirmed their faith to current number one Keylor Navas. If Los Blancos aren't signing de Gea, nobody is.

It's no surprise, therefore, that he looks significantly more comfortable between the sticks, settled in his environment for the foreseeable future.

Whilst the emphasis is on goals, Lukaku and Pogba, de Gea has silently been the Red Devils' best and most important player this season.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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