Manchester United – Solving the David de Gea Problem

So who does Alex Ferguson prefer as his goalkeeper? David de Gea or Anders Lindegaard? So far, he’s sticking to his rotation, which just means he isn’t really happy or completely confident by sticking to either one, which isn’t a good situation for Manchester United.

If there’s one position in football that doesn’t benefit from rotations, it’s the goalkeeper. A defense needs to know and be comfortable with the man playing behind it and usually responsible, in someway, to organize it. A keeper should know his place. If you’re a starter, than there’s no cloud over your head, signaling to you that it might be the bench if you make one mistake. That usually leads to an error or two.

Maybe David de Gea was thrown into the lions den a bit too early. Beginning to play for Manchester United, a starter, purchased for £17 million, happened to him before his 21st birthday. Along with some brilliant performances, when his shot stopping abilities come into play, there have been awful ones. The lack of communication with his defense and his inability to handle crosses or present a physical figure in the penalty box has cost United more than once or twice. Maybe even a league title last season, although hindsight intelligence isn’t worth much.

De Gea finished last season with the best saves-to-shots ratio in the Premier League (77.9%). But his cross-handling numbers were poor, facing 562 crosses, claiming 29 of them. He misplayed four crosses, second-worst in the league. What’s more, De Gea’s percentage of crosses handled successfully dropped to 92.6 percent.

This season, his shot stopping abilities are just as impressive, but he has played in only 3 league matches, while Lindegaard has gotten the opportunity to start four times. Both of them have kept a clean sheet just once. Having a different set of centre backs play in front of you isn’t helping as well.

And it might be that De Gea’s connection to his sweepers is his biggest problem. He simply doesn’t communicate, or shouts like you expect a keeper to at the men protecting the goal. A goalkeeper must have the respect and confidence of his defense, or at least be able to tell them what to do and where to stand. Otherwise, things like the gaffe in the home opener against Fulham, with both Vidic and De Gea missing a cross, happen all too often.

Defenders need a goalkeeper they can trust, so they know when to let him handle a cross and when to go for it themselves. For now, it doesn’t look like De Gea has that, which makes his in-and-out of the lineup that more frustrating for him and confusing for the defense. Lindegaard isn’t doing anything too impressive, but he doesn’t concede goals that are directly his fault, which is quite something these days.

Last but not least, it’s the physicality. De Gea has improved in that aspect since arriving in the Premier League, but it’s just not enough. Not intimidating other strikers when they go up to reach a cross with a goalkeeper is an invitation to score goals against you. Stoke aren’t the only team that play ultra aggressively in the box, and De Gea’s style is simply breakfast for some of the more ‘old-school’ style playing teams.

Alex Ferguson can’t admit he was wrong. It’s too soon, and he simply can’t admit it as well. So he keeps on saying that this is rotation, although in truth it’s him being far less than pleased with the form of the man he paid a lot of money to replace van der Sar with. Lindegaard was never meant to be the future of Manchester United, but so far, De Gea doesn’t look like it either.

Images: source