Having ridden out the media storm that followed his arrival at Old Trafford, David De Gea has been one of United’s leading lights in the successful recapturing of the Barclays Premier League title.
Young, slender and bequiffed, De Gea was a soft target for criticism when he arrived at Old Trafford almost two years ago. Now, having played his part in a defensive overhaul that has taken United to the Premier League title, very little gets past the gifted Spaniard. Still only 22 and fresh from his first call-up to Spain’s senior squad, De Gea has cooled burning scrutiny with his icy nerve and, armed with a poker face and a surfeit of talent, United’s No.1 has infected everyone with his contagious calm.
“David has developed and matured as the season has gone on,” Sir Alex Ferguson said last month. “It’s like a young kid taking his first steps forward. He wobbles, gets up, wobbles, gets up again and eventually he walks. The boy is walking now.”
Walking tall, too. In 2013, De Gea has conceded just five Barclays Premier League goals, keeping clean sheets in eight of 12 matches as the Reds have curtailed the procession of concessions that scattergunned the first half of the campaign. While that madcap approach still yielded results – the Reds ended 2012 seven points clear at the head of the table – the remainder of the campaign has mercifully been a far more composed stomp towards success – just how De Gea likes it.
From an early age, quiet confidence has been the youngster’s hallmark. Before his unexpected debut at 18 for Atlético Madrid as substitute for injured Roberto – himself a deputy – David had already won over manager Abel Resino. “I spoke to him about it,” Resino recalled. “He said to me: ‘I’m better than all the other goalkeepers here. I’ll get in the first team here.’ There was something I liked about him. There was assuredness, security. It wasn’t arrogance, it was conviction.” That conviction prompted Atlético to pull the plug on a deal to send De Gea out on loan to Wigan Athletic; those at the Estadio Vicente Calderon knew they had a unique prospect on their books.