De Gea evokes memories of great Schmeichel

By: Josey Samuel
David de Gea

Terrassa (Barcelona), December 4: Peter Schmeichel has been considered by many as the greatest Manchester United goalkeeper. If one man can challenge the Great Dane for that title then it should be David de Gea.

Going by de Gea's stunning show behind the bar against Arsenal, it looks like the Spanish gloveman is not too far from being bestowed as the greatest shot-stopper to wear the Red Devils' jersey.

Schmeichel famously threw up the barriers with an unforgettable performance in a crucial 1-0 win at Newcastle in 1996, which proved decisive in United overtaking Kevin Keegan's team in the title race.

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Arsenal game did not have the same significance for United, but a defeat would almost certainly have ended any lingering hopes of catching up with their neighbours Manchester City, so De Gea's array of saves were up there with Schmeichel's at St James' Park.

At Emirates Stadium on Saturday (December 2) evening, De Gea came up with a remarkable double stop to deny Alexandre Lacazette and Alexis Sanchez in quick succession in the second half.

The Spaniard was lightening quick, using every part of the body he stopped the opponent's effort 14 times in 90 minutes -- the joint-most by a goalkeeper in a single Premier League game alongside Tim Krul, for Newcastle against Tottenham in November 2013, and Vito Mannone, for Sunderland against Chelsea in April 2014 -- since Opta started recording that data in 2003/04.

"I told him after the match that what I saw today was the best goalkeeper in the world. Big matches need goalkeepers to be there for you, when the team needs them, but I think all of our players, the effort was magnificent", United manager Jose Mourinho told reporters.

Although he was beaten by Lacazette in the second half, De Gea has still kept more clean sheets (nine) than any other keeper in the Premier League this season and conceded just nine goals in 15 league games so far.

Sir Alex Ferguson faced an impossible job of replacing the great Schmeichel after he left Old Trafford following the club's historic Champions League final win over Bayern Munich in 1999.

United used no less than eleven goalkeepers following Schmeichel's departure. Mark Bosnich, Fabien Barthez, Massimo Taibi, Roy Carroll and Tim Howard were just some of the men trusted between the posts following the Dane's departure.

However, it wasn't until 2005 that Sir Alex Ferguson finally solved his goalkeeping issues by signing Dutchman Edwin van der Sar.

With an eye on future, Ferguson signed Atletico Madrid's De Gea in 2011 as the long-term successor to Van der Sar, who retired that summer.

The skinny 20-year-old Spaniard arrived at the club in the summer of 2011 for a reported fee of 18.9 million pounds but he had a forgettable debut.

In the Community Shield against rivals Manchester City, De Gea was at fault for both goals although his side eventually won the game 3-2. He was caught on the wrong foot again on the opening day of the league, the goalkeeper made a mistake that allowed Shane Long to score for West Brom.

In October 2011, De Gea was part of the United side that received a 1-6 mauling at the hands of City, the first time the club had conceded six goals at home since 1930.
Worse was to follow when his mistake saw Blackburn Rovers win 3-2 against United that followed with Ferguson deciding to drop his new goalkeeper in the next game.

An injury to Anders Lindegaard saw De Gea reinstated to first team duty for a trip to Chelsea where again United drew 3-3, but a last-minute save after a free-kick by fellow Spaniard and future United team-mate Juan Mata seemed to be a turning point for the goalkeeper who often talks of that save as the moment his Manchester career took a positive turn where he has never looked back.

This term, United have the best defence in the Premier League and have only conceded one goal at home. They also remain unbeaten at home in 2017.
Mourinho has made Old Trafford a fortress once more with De Gea a huge part of that.

Story first published: Monday, December 4, 2017, 10:34 [IST]
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