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Dave the unsung hero: The rise of David de Gea

David de Gea makes world class saves look easy and ordinary. His reflexes enable him to use his whole body to defend his goal and make him impossible to beat in a one on one eventuality, writes Ananya Das.

A few years back, many believed that goalkeeping was a thankless job. No one really talked about the goalies standing in front of the post and even if they did manage to salvage an entire game, the strikers or the midfielders would sometimes take all the credit. The culture of ignoring the hard work of the goalkeepers ended when truly world class players like Peter Schmeichel, Oliver Kahn or Gianluigi Buffon came up and about, and people realised just how good these players were, hence appreciating the position they were stationed at. In all of this, if there is one player in recent times that has come up to become the world's greatest, it is David de Gea of Manchester United.

The reason why some consider goalkeeping to be a thankless job is because, in the duration of 90 minutes, the striker or the defender will get multiple chances to prove their worth. Even when the striker 'attempts' at scoring a goal, he is lauded for the feat. But one fatal mistake from the goalie, and it is not forgotten. In a tumultuous position, it has to be a marvellous feat to be called the world's greatest. For the longest time, players like Oliver Kahn, Buffon and most recently Manuel Neuer held the title, but it is Manchester United and Spain's number one GK David de Gea who has leapt, literally, to grab that title from the likes of the greats.
When the scruffy looking Spaniard was brought to England from Atletico Madrid by Sir Alex Ferguson, many were sceptical about his time with the Red Devils and rightly so. His first season was pretty much in shreds having made no real impact in the club's history. Many fans were even enraged, questioning their great manager's decision making. After all, he was to replace the club great Edwin Van der Sar. The second season was better. David looked bulkier and trained better – he looked as though he can take the extreme pressures of being the goalkeeper of Manchester United.
Things took a drastic change when Sir Alex called it a day and retired from his managerial position at Manchester United. Not only did the goalkeeper lose his beloved boss, but he also lost Eric Steele, his mentor. It was an uphill battle from this point on, and after many shifts and turns de Gea managed to keep a few clean sheets. His highlight of the season was the double save he made against Olympiakos in the UEFA Champions League. It was in this match that people saw glimpses of greatness and after David Moyes was sacked as manager, Dutchman Louis van Gaal was signed by the English giants. It seemed that things could go well for David, as van Gaal prided over developing players. Things, however, did not go well for van Gaal and United. But during this time, when United was surely and slowly struggling, the one player that stepped up his ante was David de Gea. He got more confident, wasn't shaky anymore and was actually eager to perform in games that seemed harder than most. His standout moment of the season was him saving Leighton Baines' penalty. This was the first time the Everton left back had missed a penalty. That save summed up how good he was on the day and for that season in general.
In 2015, Real Madrid's interest sparked a lot of rumours and controversies, as the Spanish club's president Florentino Perez used all his might to get de Gea to the Spanish capital. The deal, however, fell through due to technical problems, namely a faulty fax machine, but the fans were determined to see de Gea play one more season for the Red Devils. And in 2016, he was the stand out performer. Jose Mourinho's arrival helped de Gea more than he could've hoped for. He brought in players like Eric Bailly, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who really put a spine at the back of the team which had seemed a little broken.
There is a reason why the United great Peter Schmeichel once said, "I admire David de Gea. I cannot remember anyone coming to Manchester United and being criticised the way he was. He was the subject of every debate in the media. You haven't seen de Gea defend himself in the media or shifting the blame elsewhere. He just gets on with it."
One of the reasons why de Gea seems to be best at the moment is because of his incredible reflexes. The Spaniard makes world class saves look easy and ordinary because of his reflexes, which enable him to use his whole body to defend his goal. They make him impossible to beat in a one on one eventualities. He doesn't think, he doesn't plan, and his body just goes where the ball is. Most of his saves are like reflex actions. His performance against Arsenal last week stood testament to the fact that his shot stopping abilities are unrivalled.

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