In an exclusive in-depth interview with MUTV, United head goalkeeping coach Eric Steele has explained how United and David De Gea coped with the intense pressure on the young Spanish shot-stopper in the early days of his Old Trafford career.
“David will be slightly disappointed,” admitted Steele, when reviewing the keeper’s first year. “We probably got what we expected. There was no way we expected him to come in and play as he had been playing.
“It was a totally different change for him in many, many ways. Hence the reason why we said before that, to replace Edwin, we needed two and that was the main reason why Anders Lindegaard was on board. So when we did feel he needed to come out, as you know, the games were shared with Ben Amos and Anders.
“Anders had the injury just after Christmas and then, as fate has it, David gets back in when you least expect it and just went on and it was important he finished strongly. That’s the big plus factor for us. He has adapted partly. The first season is always the most difficult. He has been through lots of firsts and we know he’ll be better prepared in terms of the second time.”
De Gea had to deal with an enormous level of scrutiny from the media after his arrival and was fiercely criticised in some quarters during the early part of his United career.
“I think it was over the top but it was a good thing that it just went straight over his head,” added Steele. “Probably the fact he didn’t really command the language in the early two or three months would’ve been a help but he still had e-mail contact from back home so he knew what was being said. But, if you dealt with him day-to-day and would see him on the field, if it was bothering him it didn’t show in terms of training and his attitude off the field.”
The Spaniard had to contend with a number of issues when sealing his move, including finding a new property and learning the language and was thrown in at the deep end against local rivals Manchester City in the Community Shield.
“It wasn’t what the manager and I expected and the rest of the staff,” added Steele. “We knew it would be a gradual process and would’ve liked to dip him in and out a bit more but we couldn’t do that.
“It doesn’t do any harm coming out of the firing line, set aside and look and reflect. He’d never had his game analysed like we try and help him. I’m not going along with the bandwagon theory as some of his performances in the first three or four months were still exceptional.
“There are that many different firsts he had to contend with, number one if you make an error at Old Trafford, how do you react? So his mistake management was brilliant as it didn’t affect him. The next thing is to go to the biggest grounds and play, and contend with The Kop.
“You don’t beat Arsenal 8-2 without his penalty save at 1-0 and the save just after half time at 2-1 from Robin van Persie, who could have had a hat-trick that day. There was the performance at Liverpool as well, with the save from Jordan Henderson in the last minute.
“Yes, there were errors but where the manager comes into his own is he has great faith in young players and all he did was reinforce the good with him. David also knew he had to appreciate very quickly that there was a challenge from Anders and he wasn’t an automatic choice. Lindegaard helped David to a point as he was growing all the time during that spell and was ready to take the spot.”