Calm and composed

David De Gea has seen off the competition provided by Anders Lindegaard and at international level he is threatening to displace Iker Casillas as Spain’s number one. By Paul Hirst.

Adapting to the demands of English football can be tough for any new arrival in the Premier League but being a goalkeeper adds to the pressure.

David de Gea knows all about that and admits he considered leaving Manchester United a couple of years ago, but he is glad he opted to stay.

De Gea walked away from Old Trafford recently with a big smile on his face after playing a crucial role in United’s 2-1 win over Everton.

The Spanish shot-stopper earned glowing reviews for the way he acrobatically denied Leon Osman and Bryan Oviedo, as well as Leighton Baines, who saw his previously impeccable penalty record vanish thanks to De Gea’s right-hand save.

“It was probably one of my best performances for Manchester United. I was really happy about that,” De Gea said. “Games like that help your confidence grow.”

Rewind three years and De Gea could barely muster a smile. His dream GBP18million move from Atletico Madrid immediately turned into a nightmare when he was blamed for both goals in United’s narrow Community Shield win over Manchester City.

Worse was to come in the course of his first six months at Old Trafford. Errors against Basle and Benfica quickened United’s early exit from the Champions League while domestically, De Gea cost United points against West Brom and Blackburn among others.

De Gea was struggling to bulk up to help him cope with the demands of playing in the Premier League and, understandably for a 20-year-old, he was finding the move away from his family to a foreign country extremely difficult.

At times, the pressure proved too intense for the young goalkeeper, who had played less than two years’ worth of first-team football before he moved to Manchester.

“Sometimes,” De Gea said, when asked whether he ever thought about leaving. “It's difficult when you get a lot of criticism like I did. But I kept strong and I always tried to remain positive.

“Those early days were difficult for me and my family. But when you play for a big club like Manchester United (being criticised) is normal when you don't play well.”

Although he does not remember the early days of his fledgling career fondly, De Gea is glad he went through the experience as he feels it toughened him up and made him the goalkeeper he is today.

“What happened at the start helped me be the player and man I am now,” he said. “When you have bad moments you have to improve. You have to become stronger to deal with them and I believe I have become stronger. I am much better now.”

Although he is not completely error-free — last season’s Capital One Cup clanger against Sunderland proved as much — De Gea has improved immeasurably since those opening six months.

He has seen off the competition provided by Anders Lindegaard and at international level De Gea is threatening to displace Iker Casillas as Spain’s number one.

De Gea credits Frans Hoek, the goalkeeper coach brought in by Louis van Gaal this summer, as one of the men responsible for his upturn in form.

“Frans Hoek has helped me a lot,” said De Gea, whose distribution has improved just as much as his shot-stopping. “We are working on trying to start moves from the goalkeeper. I think I’m playing the best football of my career. Now I’m ready for everything.”

After such an extensive overhaul of players in the summer, De Gea is now one of the more experienced members of the first-team squad.

Van Gaal will be looking to the Spaniard to provide leadership for the team, particularly now that old heads at the back like Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic have gone.

And fortunately for the Dutchman, he is now well placed to do so.

© PA Sport