Transfer Tales: Doing the David De Gea deal
Ten years ago, Manchester United's hunt for a replacement for Edwin van der Sar was concluded when David De Gea signed from Atletico Madrid.
The Spanish prospect was only 20 and considered to be a raw prospect but Sir Alex Ferguson and his scouting team had done the necessary groundwork and knew we had a top-class keeper on our hands.
Then goalkeeping coach Eric Steele watched De Gea perform in La Liga and decided he had the mentality required to go all the way to the top.
Van der Sar, hero of the 2008 Champions League final triumph against Chelsea, was always going to have huge shoes to fill but this did not concern Ferguson, who had faith in his new recruit.
"We haven't mentioned that to him," he replied when asked about taking over from Edwin. "I don't think there's any point. The past is the past and Edwin is part of the past. He had an incredible career with us, he was an incredible goalkeeper. But hopefully the future belongs to David De Gea."
"We identified him quite a while ago," continued Sir Alex. "But it was the beginning of last season that we started to focus on him. We worked hard to get the deal done because it wasn't easy. Atletico Madrid obviously regarded him very highly, but we managed to get it done and we're delighted he joined us.
“He's got great composure for a young man. He's quick, got good reflexes, he's athletic, and you know at 20 years of age there is all that potential. He's only going to get better.”
WHAT DAVID SAID
De Gea told Inside United at the time that he was helped by three team-mates, in particular, as he adjusted to life at this new club. He had been alerted to the Reds' interest by the media, after helping Atletico win the Europa League and UEFA Super Cup in 2010.
“I first picked it up through a newspaper article," he admitted. "The story was circulating that United were possibly interested in coming in for me, and I was very happy to learn about that. And of course, who wouldn't have felt very happy to be able to sign and join a club like this? It opened up a great way forward for me and I was very happy, and straight away I wanted to get in here, get on with training and get started.
“I was a bit nervous in the beginning because I didn't know anybody – I didn't know the manager or any of my team-mates. I didn't speak English. I'd seen them all on TV but to be amongst them, training with them, trying to communicate... it was an exciting time. The first [to help] were those who speak my language – Chicharito, Antonio [Valencia], Nani. All of them of course, but specifically those guys because of the language. If I had any questions or problems I could ask them, they helped me a great deal.”
The chat with Sir Alex was one to remember for De Gea, who also appreciated the scrutiny and pressure he would face as United's new no.1.
"Well you can imagine, of course, with the record he [Ferguson] has, having spent 25 years at the top and at a club like this – it's amazing," he said. "It's a unique experience in itself and I was very proud to meet and spend time with him. All I can say is it's a privilege to meet the boss.
“Pulling on the goalkeeper's shirt, it's normal, the pressure, it's how it always is. But with United being such a big club, and one that is loved and worshipped by so many people and fans, it is a huge thing. When you are a goalkeeper for any club, there are very high expectations laid on you at all times."
This story was originally published to celebrate De Gea's 10-year anniversary of signing for the Reds.