Manchester United star David de Gea has admitted he almost quit after a difficult start to his Old Trafford career. The Spanish star, who put in what he called his best performance against Everton last weekend, said the criticism aimed at him when he first moved to the Premier League made him think about exiting early on.
The stopper was responsible for ending Leighton Baines’ 100% penalty record in United’s 2-1 victory on Sunday before pulling off eye-catching stops to deny Leon Osman and Bryan Oviedo. Such was de Gea’s performance, United coach Louis van Gaal publicly praised his stopper. However, it could not be more different from three-years-ago when ex-United boss Sir Alex Ferguson paid Atlético Madrid $29 million for de Gea’s services. The Spaniard’s dream move soon turned into disaster when he was blamed for the two goals he conceded against Manchester City in the Community Shield. He followed up that game with a number of errors in his first six month between the sticks against the likes of Basel and Benfica in the Champions League. United subsequently crashed out of the tournament in the early stages.
Domestically, life was not great for de Gea either. His mistakes against West Bromwich Albion and Blackburn Rovers saw many call for the keeper to be axed from the team. De Gea found it hard to bulk up to meet the demands of playing in the Premier League. Furthermore, at the age of 20, he found it hard living away from his native Spain.
De Gea said he “sometimes” thought about leaving. “Those early days were difficult for me and my family. But when you play for a big club like Manchester United (being criticized) is normal when you don’t play well,” de Gea said. However, de Gea said that despite a shaky start to life at Old Trafford, he is of the view that the experience has made him the keeper he is today and that it has made him a stronger person on and off the pitch.
The Spaniard, who was included in Spain’s World Cup squad in Brazil, singled out Frans Hoek, the goalkeeping coach brought to United by van Gaal, as one of the reasons for his improvement. Although United have had a shaky start to the new campaign, by their standards, de Gea is one of a handful of players to have stood out. His role has been made all the more difficult by virtue of the fact de Gea has not had a regular back line in front of him this season. Not only has van Gaal switched from three central defenders and two wing-backs to a flat back four on occasion, the personal has been different in each game. Last season he had experience in Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidić and Patrice Evra. United only signed Argentine Marcos Rojo and England youngster Luke Shaw for the defense during the summer and so de Gea has had to rely on a young and inexperienced defense.
While United star de Gea has revealed he almost quit Old Trafford, he can take pride in his recent performances, which have helped launch his side up to fourth spot in the Premier League. Should United be there or higher come the end of the season, de Gea will feel he has finally made his mark in the Premier League.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd