How Manchester United keeper David de Gea's masterclass thwarted Arsenal
On current form, it is hard to argue there is a better goalkeeper in world football than David de Gea. After a difficult start to life at Manchester United as a precocious youngster, the Spaniard has grown in stature to become the formidable figure we now see between the posts.
In recent seasons, de Gea has proved why United were prepared to shell out £18.9 million to sign him in 2011, then a British record fee for a goalkeeper. Undoubtedly, his current value far exceeds that amount.
Even by his own standards, though, de Gea’s performance in the 3-1 victory over Arsenal at the Emirates scaled new heights. The 27-year-old made 14 saves – a the joint most by a Premier League goalkeeper since Opta started recording such statistics in 2003 – but that tells only a fraction of the story.
Very few were routine stops; many of them defied belief. With his feet or his hands, de Gea was in inspired form and continually frustrated Arsenal, who surely couldn’t believe their misfortune.
The entire 90 minutes was effectively a de Gea highlights reel. Having fallen two goals behind, it was incumbent on Arsenal to take the game to United, which they did with some free-flowing football. However, everything they threw at the Spaniard’s goal came right back at them.
De Gea got down low to parry long-range efforts away from danger when the Gunners tested him on a slick pitch. But where he really showed his worth was from close range.
In the first half, de Gea showed lightning reflexes to pull off a tremendous save from one of his own players. When Romelu Lukaku had attempted to clear the ball, it inadvertently ricocheted off his other leg and looped towards the goal.
However, the United man had the presence of mind and dexterity to change direction and claw the ball from behind him and out to safety.
The Spain international was eventually beaten when Aaron Ramsey’s lay-off allowed Alexandre Lacazette to halve the deficit shortly after the second-half resumption. However, de Gea was back in the spotlight soon afterwards to thwart Arsenal once more.
His double save from Lacazette and Alexis Sanchez drew widespread gasps of amazement inside the Emirates.
First, he stuck out a strong right wrist to deny the Frenchman, whose well-struck shot had looked destined for the bottom corner. The rebound fell kindly for Sanchez, but somehow de Gea managed to deflect the ball out for a corner courtesy of an outstretched right leg.
United’s third, which restored their two-goal advantage, rather knocked the stuffing out of Arsenal and despite Paul Pogba’s red card, the hosts could not get back into the match. Although Jesse Lingard scored twice, there was no doubt in the minds of everybody at the Emirates that de Gea was responsible for this victory.
In his post-match interviews, Jose Mourinho described de Gea as the best goalkeeper in the world. There has been speculation for a couple of years now that Real Madrid are trying to lure him back to his homeland (although his history at Atletico Madrid may be complicating the issue).
It is increasingly apparent that United rely heavily on their goalkeeper and that replacing him would be no easy task. Tying down de Gea to a new, long-term contract should be a priority for Mourinho if he is intent on restoring the club to its former glories.