United goalkeeping legend Edwin van der Sar insists his successor, David De Gea, proved his class last season and has backed the young Spaniard to continue to shine at Old Trafford.
De Gea arrived from Atletico Madrid in July 2011 and, by his own admission, took time to find his feet in English football. Early mistakes were magnified in the press and attracted widespread criticism, with one high-profile football journalist labelling him a “liability” and suggesting the Reds’ scouts had made a serious error of judgement.
“How on earth they could have watched this boy – week in, week out – and then signed him for the first-team, I just don’t know,” he wrote.
But van der Sar says De Gea, who’s just been named in Spain’s senior squad for the first time for Euro 2012 warm-up games against Serbia and South Korea, proved he has the necessary qualities to perform at the top.
“He did get criticism last season but I made mistakes at Ajax when I was young, and also at Juventus and United," he told Press Association. "The main thing is how you recover in the next game, or the game itself. He did that.
“He became more important as the season went on and made good saves. I am sure United knew all [about him] when they signed him, so would have been aware of what to expect.”
Indeed, De Gea was one of the Reds’ most consistent performers in the second half of the season and made a string of top shots to ensure United pushed Manchester City all the way in the race for the Barclays Premier League title.
Logic dictates he’ll improve further in his second season at the club and continue to forge a name for himself. Then, perhaps, he’ll be able to escape the constant comparisons to former Reds stoppers like van der Sar and Peter Schmeichel.