Q&A: Read the full interview with De Gea
David De Gea reached 500 games for Manchester United at the weekend, but the Spanish goalkeeper thinks the magnitude of his achievement is something that will only hit him when he retires from football.
De Gea is the first non-British or Irish player to reach the milestone for the club, and only the 11th Red in total.
In a wide-ranging Q&A with club media, our long-standing no.1 tells us how special it feels, as he looks back on his move from Atletico Madrid and reviews his relationship with United fans and the city of Manchester. He also talks about his ambitions for the future, as there's still plenty the 31-year-old wants to achieve at Old Trafford.
The video interview concludes with David watching and talking about some of his finest saves and performances in a red shirt, so make sure you view until the end...
So David, 500 games for Manchester United. It’s something only 10 players in the history of the club have managed. How special of an achievement is that for you?
“Yeah, I think it’s something crazy. To play 500 games for this club is very special for me, of course, but probably I will realise more when I stop playing football, when I retire and then look back and say ‘OK, I played more than 500 games for a massive club like United.’ I’m super proud and it’s amazing, to be honest.”
When you first signed from Atletico, you were obviously a really ambitious 20-year-old, but even in your wildest dreams could you have imagined playing this many times for this great club?
“Like you say, I was very ambitious but this is a big achievement. Like I say, it’s crazy and I never imagined to play more than 500 games for this club so I’m very proud, super happy and hopefully [there’s] much more to come.”
How many games did you expect to play?
“I don’t know. To be honest you never think about how many games you’re going to play, just be game-by-game and try to be fit and ready for the games, not thinking about how many you’re going to play.”
De Gea special | 500 games and counting
In a feature-length interview, David De Gea reflects on 500 United appearances and reviews his greatest saves so far...
To spend so long at the club as well, it’s been 11 years and 500 games. What’s so special about the club, that has made you want to stay so long?
“Just the club: what Manchester United means and the history of the fans. I think everything. Everything. Just to be part of this club is massive and it’s so difficult to get here so it’s a dream to be here and already play as much as I’ve played. It’s unbelievable.”
You mentioned the fans there and you’ve got a special relationship with them, I think it’s fair to say. What is it about United fans, because when players come into the club, they always mention how good the support is, so what is it about them?
“Yeah, I think it’s a massive part of the club, for sure, the fans. Especially when we play at home but even away the fans are amazing. When we travel far from here, you’re still feeling the love from the fans so for sure, we have one of the best fan [bases] in the world. Even when things are not in the best way, they keep helping the team. They keep shouting for us and supporting us so that’s massive for us.”
What’s been the best moment in your relationship with the fans? Have there been any particular memories that stand out? One-to-one conversations, maybe…
“Just many, many good times with the fans. When they shout my name at Old Trafford or away, it’s unbelievable. The feeling is difficult to describe but we have amazing fans.”
You’ll see the kids too, holding up their signs asking for your gloves. I imagine that’s special, too…
“Yeah, that’s probably the best part of our job. We are capable of making people, especially kids, happy and being an example for them. We have a big responsibility as well, so it’s great to have the love of the kids.”
You’ve done a lot of interviews before and you’ve always said that Manchester feels like home for you now. Why is that, do you think?
“Well because I’ve been already many years here. I love a lot of good things here. I love the people here, I love the club and everything here and like you say, I feel like this is my home.”
Is there anything you’d say you do that’s more Mancunian or English now? Any things that you’ve changed since you came from Spain, that you’ve taken on board from your time here?
“I don’t know. I’m still having the timing of the dinner. I have late dinners, late food, late lunch, so I’m still with some Spanish things but I don’t know, just the people are very polite and very good with me so I’m very grateful to be here in Manchester.”
You just mentioned there while we were walking up, that you’ve just been back to Spain. Presumably it’s nice to go home but then when you come back here as well, it also feels like home?
“Of course, yeah. I have my friends and family there in Spain and it’s my country of course so I’m happy to go there and spend time with my family and friends in Spain but sometimes when I’m there and on holiday, I spend a lot of time there in Spain and I already miss a bit of Manchester so that’s a good thing. I’m really happy here.”
Playing so many games for United over 11 years, has the way that you prepare for games changed at all? Data in football is massive now and obviously training has always been really important but in terms of preparation, has that changed? Do you look at the strengths and weaknesses of opponents more?
“I think with time you are getting more experienced and you know how to deal with games. I think the most important thing is the mental things. Just to be 100 per cent ready in the head. That’s massive for the players, especially for the goalkeeper. I just try to give my best in training, try to improve every day and give my best every day to be 100 per cent ready for games.”
How do you get in that mindset to play games? Any superstitions or things you have to do before a game?
“No. When I was a younger, I had a lot but now not many. Like I said, it’s very tough mentally sometimes. Many games and you have to be very good every game and it’s tough. This is the job, this is the goalkeeper’s life. If you give everything, you have to be happy with yourself. If you’ve tried your best, that’s the only thing you can do.”
I know you’re a big music fan as well. Are there any specific songs or playlists you have to listen to, to get you in the mood in the dressing room?
“I listen to many songs before the game. Some rock songs to pump me up and make me feel ready but I listen to a lot of music, yeah.”
Is that something you do on your own, in your own headspace with headphones or is it a shared experience with the dressing room?
“No, sometimes I put my own music on, on the way to the stadium on the bus and then we put like a list for everyone in the dressing room, just everyone can listen to music and be in a good mood to be ready for the games.”
You’ve reached that 500 games mark now so what’s the short-term ambition this season?
“I think it’s just go game by game and try to win as much as we can and be prepared for each game. Not thinking about the future or anything else, just prepare yourself to be ready for the next one and then the next one, so this is the mentality. Train properly and recover properly and go game by game.”
Ultimately are trophies the big ambition at United and are the trophies you’ve won here the fondest memories you’ll have when you eventually do leave the club?
“Yeah, of course. The main job is to try to reach the trophies and fight for them. I won already some trophies here and it was amazing, the feeling, and for the fans as well. This is what we are trying to do. We’re trying to improve and be a good team and a proper team and then fight for big things.”
Are you excited for the rest of the season and the way it’s all started under Erik?
“Of course, of course. I think we’re playing better. We are winning some difficult games, keeping some good clean sheets as well. That’s super important for us and I feel it. The players want it more, we are hungry and that’s a good signal, so let’s keep doing well and keep fighting together.”
Just finally, 500 games is obviously a big landmark but there are some more coming up. I think you go into the top 10 of our all-time appearance makers soon, which is obviously massive. I think the clean-sheets record is up for grabs too. Do things like this mean a lot to you personally?
“Yeah, of course, of course. It’s not easy. Like I said before, it’s difficult to reach that many games. A clean sheet as well, every year it’s more difficult to keep a clean sheet in the Premier League so yeah I feel very, very proud and probably, like I said already, I’ll realise more when I stop playing football and check and say ‘look at what I did in this club’. But now it’s time to keep doing more: more games, more clean sheets and help the team even more.”