By George Ankers
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed that David de Gea has made himself the team’s undisputed first-choice goalkeeper.
The 22-year-old’s sometimes-slow adaptation to the English game has often seen him rotated with Anders Lindegaard but a series of excellent performances have solidified his status as the Red Devils’ No.1.
“David is No.1 now, definitely,” Sir Alex told reporters. “He has really improved this season, especially the physical part of his game, and he can deal with things much better than he could when he first came here.
“If you remember his first game away from home at West Brom last season, he got absolutely battered.
“I think even referees viewed him as a young Spanish player who needed to toughen up and he didn’t get any protection at all but you can see maturity in him now. The physical stuff doesn’t bother him. He can handle it. De Gea took a real buffeting at West Ham but it didn’t affect him at all. He was really composed in what he did.
“David has developed into a really top goalkeeper. He is quick and composed and we have no problems with him now.”
The Scot saluted the role played by goalkeeping coach Eric Steele in improving De Gea’s performances, likening the youngster’s transformation to that of Old Trafford icon Peter Schmeichel.
“We have to thank our goalkeeping coach, Eric Steele, for his progress this season,” Sir Alex enthused. “Steely kept reminding David that he is a top player and he has responded to the physical part by putting on almost a stone in pure muscle.
“We warned David when he signed what he could expect because it was the same with Schmeichel, who was 27 years old and a big, strong lad when he came here.
“I remember Peter’s first game against Wimbledon, when he was screaming like a dying pig for protection. Nothing can prepare keepers for it.
“We do a lot of crossing with the goalkeepers in training but you don’t want players crashing into one another in training.”