It seems so long ago that David de Gea was considered by many to be the best goalkeeper in the world. Between 2015 and 2018, the Spaniard was unplayable, and it can be argued that he was the main reason why Manchester United’s fall from grace after the retirement of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson wasn’t particularly epic. However, an incomprehensibly poor World Cup in the summer of 2018, accompanied by a change to the goalkeeping staff at Old Trafford, proved catastrophic for De Gea. His confidence plummeted, and for the next two seasons he made multiple errors leading directly to goals, his former self seeming miles away. The Red Devils were one of the favorites to win the league this season, and you can read more about this here, due to the arrivals of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho, and Raphael Varane, but the most impressive in the Manchester side’s squad so far this season has arguably been De Gea.
David de Gea Back to His Best for Manchester United
A Rise From the Ashes
The 2018 World Cup was disastrous for De Gea. His momentum and confidence built over the past few seasons were gone, replaced by criticism from the media and, no doubt, from himself as well. This affected him for the next two campaigns, with his mistakes including an erroneous clearance deflecting off of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and into De Gea’s empty net during a 1-1 draw with Everton in March 2020.
The 30-year-old was determined to improve, though, and his climb back to the top started last season. He was dropping consistently solid performances, with very few mistakes and glimpses of his former self. That said, he was not absolutely undroppable, and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer allowed him extra time off in March of 2021 after the birth of his first child, with Dean Henderson replacing the Spaniard and United’s number 1 for the remainder of the season.
Seemingly Back to His Best
After traversing a rough period of his career, De Gea has performed as though he is back at his best since the start of the season. Even while the Red Devils have only managed to keep one clean sheet this campaign, the Spaniard could have done nothing about any of the goals he conceded. He has, however, had a lot to do with why more goals haven’t gone past him.
For instance, in United’s tight-fought 1-0 dispatch of Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier this season, the goalkeeper’s performance was crucial in deciding who left Molineux with how many points. While it was still 0-0, he made an unbelievable double save off a Wolves corner, inexplicably getting a hand to two powerful shots from within the six-yard box. De Gea made a number of other top-quality saves during this game, and managed to keep a deserved clean sheet. Not only was his shot-stopping ability top-notch against Wolves, but the game also allowed us to see him coming far out of his goal to clear through-balls before oncoming attackers were able to latch onto them. This is a skill for which many have lauded Dean Henderson, and the fact that De Gea now seems equally confident with it is a very promising sign for United fans.
The Spaniard also saved a penalty in the last minute of the Old Trafford side’s 2-1 victory over West Ham United in September, his first stop from the spot in 5 years. Further, in a game that ended with the same scoreline, the Red Devils defeated Villarreal in the Champions League last Wednesday, with De Gea dropping yet another world-class performance.
De Gea’s performances have certainly moved up a notch or ten since the start of the campaign, and he is showing all the signs that this will continue indefinitely.