It’s difficult to say with absolute certainly how many great sides Sir Alex Ferguson has built in his near quarter century at Old Trafford because one has often tended to morph into another but it’s becoming clear that he is now well on the way towards creating his final team before handing over the reins to his successor. Another piece of the jigsaw is being prepared as Ferguson looks towards securing a long term replacement for his 40 year old goalkeeper with 19 year old Spaniard David De Gea, nicknamed Van der Gea by his team mates at Atletico Madrid for his similarity to Manchester United’s Edwin van der Sar, both for his appearance and goalkeeping style.
So who is this wonder keeper that everyone in Europe raves about? After all he’s still so young that his family is reported to be hesitant about a transfer to England because they consider him as not yet ready to leave home. In fact one story suggest that De Gea’s father still drives him to training in Madrid.
A product of their youth teams, De Gea has been at Atletico since the age of 10, was first exposed to the world playing for Spain and helping them to reach the final of the 2007 Under 17 World Cup. Just like Pepe Reina and Andres Palop have earned widespread praise for their penalty saving expertise in recent years, their youngster did the same. His impressive reflexes and penalty saves made him the best goalkeeper in the tournament.
De Gea received his first chance as a senior player last season when first choice Sergio Asenjo was away with the Under 20 national team in the World Cup in Egypt. He then replaced the injured second choice Roberto during a Champions League match at Porto in September. Three days later he made his first division debut at home against Real Zaragoza giving away a penalty in the 19th minute but saved Marko Babic’s attempt in an eventual 2-1 triumph.
Coupled with some costly mistakes by Asenjo and the arrival of Quique Sánchez Flores as manager, De Gea finished the season in the starting eleven twice earning man of the match awards against Athletic Bilbao and Valencia. The teenager also appeared in eight games during the club’s victorious Europa League campaign including the 2-1 final win against Fulham. De Gea then started 2010-11 in impressive fashion helping Atlético win the UEFA Super Cup. In the 90th minute of the 2-0 win against Inter, he saved a Diego Milito penalty kick.
As a youngster, De Gea has overcame a year long knee cap injury to progress through the ranks. He also had to travel 50 km in each direction from his home in the small town of Illescas to Atletico’s training ground. It now must be time for him to decide whether to stay at the Vicente Calderon and fight for his place in the team or move elsewhere where he will receive the chance to showcase his amazing abilities to the world. One way or the other, De Gea is set for a truly bright future in the game.
And what better place can there be than at Old Trafford as a member of the final great team assembled by the greatest manager in the history of English football?
Is David De Gea the man to succeed Edwin van der Sar?