Van der Sar: How De Gea can improve even further
Edwin van der Sar believes his successor in Manchester United's goal, David De Gea, is the best shot-stopper in the world but that Spain's no.1 can get even better in a couple of areas.
The Dutch giant was at Old Trafford recently and took time to discuss De Gea's remarkable form at Manchester United, which has yielded four Sir Matt Busby Player-of-the-Year awards in the last five years.
Ahead of the Spaniard's first-ever appearance at a World Cup finals, when a Spain side still coming to terms with the shock dismissal of coach Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the tournament faces Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal in Sochi, all eyes will be on United's brilliant keeper.
Van der Sar knows more than a thing or two about the art of keeping goal, and the 130-times capped Netherlands international has been paying close attention to the 27-year-old's performances and was happy to offer some advice.
"No, I couldn't imagine how well he has done," van der Sar admitted to MUTV. "Not really. He was a very young goalkeeper when he came, replacing me, but he and also the coaches have put in a lot of work to make him the goalkeeper he is now. Eric Steele first and, after, Frans Hoek with Louis van Gaal. He is performing really well. The next step is to be more demanding from his defenders and also to play a little bit more out of his goal but [in terms of] his reaction saves – nobody makes better saves than David De Gea.
"Yes, these are areas he can work on but he’s 28 [later this year] and I was 34 when I came to United. So he still has a lot of time to improve and the level he has now is an immense high. Maybe he can find another thing to add to his game and the goalkeeping coaches find another thing to work on to set himself as the proper number one in the world."
Some people compare De Gea to van der Sar but, while appreciating there are some similarities in terms of their styles, the twice-Champions League winner thinks they are two very different goalkeepers.
"It's probably his height," said the hero from the European Cup win in Moscow in 2008. "I think he’s made a lot of saves with his feet, which I did also in my time. I also played a little bit more outside the goal, coming for crosses and balls outside the box. I had a great understanding with my defenders – Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, plus Gary Neville and Wes Brown. It’s important for him to have that connection with the centre-halves in front of him."
Reds legend Edwin does not believe De Gea necessarily needs to have an outstanding World Cup to cement his status as one of the best on the planet as Spain look to get out of Group B, which also contains Morocco and Iran. Moreover, it is important all the United players avoid picking up an injury out in Russia.
"As a club, you always hope your players are safe and sound," said the Ajax CEO. "No injuries – that’s the main thing. There are only 32 teams in it and only one can win it. For myself, Holland are not there so I don’t really care who wins it! Spain, Belgium, Argentina or Brazil."