David relishing Atleti reunion
David De Gea is looking forward to a ‘special occasion’ as Manchester United take on his former club Atletico Madrid in the Champions League tonight (Wednesday).
The 31-year-old has been a Red for over a decade now and is 13th on the list of our all-time appearance makers.
He began his career with the Spanish side, though, and is expecting a difficult tie ahead of the reunion.
“Yes, of course it’s an interesting and special game coming up against Atletico de Madrid,” David told Inside United, the club’s official magazine.
“It’s the first time I will have gone back or, indeed, played against them since I left the club, and it will be an extremely difficult game.
“We all know how Atletico de Madrid play, they’re a very strong and tough outfit, who know how to really compete. It will be a hugely entertaining tie and let’s hope we can win through.”
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De Gea is yet to visit the Wanda Metropolitano, with Los Colchoneros having moved from their old Vicente Calderon ground in 2017.
He’s expecting to see some familiar faces but the target is taking a lead back to Manchester for the second leg on 15 March.
“It will be different because like you say, they’ve moved stadium and, of course, many years have gone by since then and lots of things will have changed,” De Gea added.
“But, for sure, it will be a special occasion, going back to the club where I started out and where everything began. It will definitely be special.
“We know that the Atletico de Madrid supporters really get behind their team and so it will be a special game for everyone.
“I have got lots of friends over there at Atletico de Madrid and it will be nice to meet up with them again, but, after all, it’s also just another game. We all want to win, I want to win, and we’ll be going there focused on winning.”
David’s first Champions League appearance came as an Atleti player in 2009, as he replaced the injured Roberto during a 2-0 defeat to Porto in Portugal.
“I hardly had any time to think about it,” he recalls. “I was on the bench and my team-mate got injured and so I had to get out there very quickly and so I wasn’t really fully aware either of what was actually happening.
“I remember that we lost the match, but that I had a fairly faultless, half-decent game. But to make your first-team debut, in the Champions League, in a stadium like Porto’s Dragao, I reckon there’s no better way to do it.
“So, it was a very good debut and although we lost the game, it was a special first appearance for me.”
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De Gea will be looking to reach the quarter-finals for the third time in his United career, after appearances in the last eight in 2014 and 2019.
However, he won’t just be satisfied with getting past Atletico as he has his eye on lifting the trophy come May.
“Yes, of course there is [that aim]. That’s the objective. To win.
“The focus and aim is to not only win the tie but to also try and win the Champions League itself.
“We’ll be trying our best to do so, and approaching it with a real desire and conviction and we’ll be giving it a real go. It’s a really great competition.”
Read the full interview with David in the March edition of Inside United magazine.