The term ‘one man team’ has been used for years. In truth, it is never really the case. Nor is it at United, but I have never seen a United team that has been so reliant on one man. David De Gea is without question the best goalkeeper in world football and the one genuine world class player in Jose Mourinho’s ranks. The fact he has been the United player of the season for 4 out of the last 5 seasons says everything you need to know about how reliant United have become on him. United like any top club, need a top keeper, but how much difference does De Gea mke to United.
Cut above the rest
The Spaniard has been brilliant for a while but it is only in the last few years that he is getting the world class recognition he deserves. United have done their utmost to keep him and with Thibaut Courtois’ move to Real Madrid in the summer, they may have successfully fought off the competition. Whether the old ‘fax machine-gate of 2015’ is a true story or not, the important thing for everyone related to the club is that De Gea remains between the Old Trafford sticks. Without him, I have no idea what situation the club would be in.
He may have been Sir Alex Ferguson’s signing, but he has stayed as professional as they come under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and now Jose Mourinho. Had it not been for De Gea’s brilliance over the last couple of seasons, there is a good chance he would be playing under another manager now too.
No more evident than last season when United finished second behind City and only had a worse goal difference by 1. The expectation would be that the top 2 clubs would have decent defensive records, but, a closer look at the overall stats shows just how vital De Gea was to United finishing second and probably top 4.
De Gea was ranked at number 5 for the most saves made in the league last season with 115. For a club that only conceded 27 goals, this is phenomenal. To qualify this further, Ederson made less than half the amount of saves the United keeper did and conceded only 1 less. For a club finishing in the top 2, the number of saves should be a lot less than those clubs nearer the bottom. To highlight this, the goalkeepers above him came from 2 relegated clubs and 2 others that were fighting relegation for the majority of the season. You have to go all the way down to Hugo Lloris in 13th to find the next top 4 goalkeeper.
These stats show just how poor United were in defence yet, despite the number of saves he had to make, De Gea also managed the most clean sheets for the season.
Looking back at the season, De Gea was outstanding in so many high profile games. Arsenal away was the standout, without the keeper, United would have been on the wrong end of a thumping. The list is endless, time and time again he kept United in games and allowed them to pick up crucial victories along the way.
New season, same story
After receiving some criticism following his performances at the World Cup, questions were being asked of the Spaniard. Was he on the decline? was his head being turned elsewhere? Just 6 games into the season and the answer to both is emphatically no. United travelled to high flying Watford, off the back of 2 wins and 2 defeats to start the season. 2 goals to the good and cruising, United let the Hornets back into the game and in injury time, De Gea spectacularly kept out Christian Kabasele’s header to deny Watford a draw. Roll on a week and he was once again outstanding, only this time in helping United to hang on for a point at home to Wolves. De Gea has stopped United from recording just 7 points from 6 games and not languishing in mid table.
It is easy to say that making saves is De Gea’s job. Obviously true, but it is the sheer number of saves he makes that he has no right to make. That is what puts him above the rest. All keepers make a number of saves, all keepers will have games where they stop everything. De Gea though does this on a regular basis. It is a striker’s job to put the ball in the net, but they have players around them making their jobs as easy as possible. At the moment, De Gea has defenders making his job as hard as possible, yet rises to the occasion every time.
Simply the best
De Gea is simply the best. Chelsea recently paid over £70 million for Kepa Arrizabalaga making him the world’s most expensive goalkeeper. The United board would have been sat with a huge grin in their faces as it double De Gea’s transfer fee immediately. The Spanish number one is as important to United as Neymar is to PSG and Messi is to Barcelona. He should not only be talked of as the best goalkeeper in the world, but in the conversation as the best player in the world. Ben Foster hit the nail on the head when he called De Gea the Messi of goalkeepers. He can make saves that other keepers can only dream of. United are very lucky to have him and if they are ever to return to their past glories, it is imperative it stays that way.