Manchester United 2012-13 player review: David de Gea

Clive Mason

Our player reviews for Manchester United's 20|13 title-winning season begins with the club's No.1: Davd de Gea.

Over the next month or so, The Busby Babe is going to be offering up player reviews for nearly every player that featured for Manchester United this season. The likes of Marnick Vermijl, Michael Keane, and Scott Wootton, though, will be excluded because there isn't much to evaluate them on. It should be easy to anticipate the order of the players being reviewed because I'm simply going to go down a list by their shirt numbers. Therefore, David de Gea is up first.

I'm going to be dividing each of the player reviews into three categories: 'what was expected' will be a brief and general explanation of what the expectations were for the player prior to the season's start, 'what we got' will typically be the section with the most depth as this will be the heart of the review, and 'what's next?' will be an examination of the player's future at United. Here's the review for big save Dave.

What was expected

Because of a plethora of reasons -- his age, his transfer fee, being the successor to Edwin van der Sar, etc. -- de Gea was a player under a bright spotlight last season. Overall, it was a solid debut season at United but there were some hiccups. Long story short: de Gea was recognized as a very good-stopper and more than adequate with his feet -- but he was underwhelming in commanding his box and dealing with crosses. Now, it wasn't quite the dire situation some made it out to be, but it was still a concern. In the latter half of the 2011-12 season though, de Gea was in tremendous form and he was as good as anyone in Europe during that stretch of time. The hope was that he would use that as a springboard for this season.

What we got

DE GEA


GS


SV


GC


SV%


GCPG


Avg P


PS%


Prem


28


84


26


76.4%


0.93


15.2


56.8%


CL


7


25


8


75.8%


1.14


17.1


53.3%


* GS = games started, SV = saves, GC = goals conceded, SV% = save percentage, GCPG = goals conceded per game, Avg P = averages passes per game, PS% = passing accuracy percentage

One of the good things, perhaps, of de Gea being a lightning rod for criticism when things (supposedly) go wrong is the rallying of United supporters to his defense. And in turn, it's made it that much more rewarding watching the 22-year-old blossom into one of Europe's finest goalkeepers.

Similar to last season, de Gea had a few dodgy moments in the first-half of the season. That led to some speculation that United might be looking to sell the Spaniard in the summer while bringing in a goalkeeper such as Stoke City's Asmir Begovic. Though similar to last season's trajectory, de Gea was brilliant again during the run in. His sensational performance in his native land -- at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid in a UEFA Champions League knock-out tie -- in February was probably his breakout in the eyes of those not watching close enough. To United fans, though, it was vindication of our faith in him. de Gea truly was a hero against the narrative that night in Spain.

At the moment, it's hard to think of another goalkeeper on the planet that is a better shot-stopper than de Gea. His 77.9% save percentage topped the Premier League last season and his 76.4% rate this season is pretty much on par with that previous success. He has no weaknesses in his shot-stopping ability: his reflexes are tremendous, his range is superb, his improvisation is brilliant (e.g. a certain kick save comes to mind in Madrid), and his positioning is sound. He handles shots from distance well, he responds well on deflections, and he's good in one-on-one situations.

There has been some criticism of him parrying shots back into the path of opposition attackers. However, this is incredibly harsh because his ability to make the initial save on most of these occassions was increible in itself and just getting to the ball was often beyond reasonable expectation.

The Spaniard's ability on the ball is very solid as well. He shows composure and extreme confidence when he's closed down -- sometimes scaringly too much when he tries to cut back past an opposition attacker with a dribble or when he tries to precisely drop a pass into a tight space too close to goal. Nonetheless, his long-range passing accuracy is very good and his short distribution is decent enough. Overall, this is a strength for de Gea and he provides United a 'keeper that can contribute in building attacking sequences out of the back.

Dave's clear biggest weakness, his ability to command his box and more specifically, his ability to handle crosses is something he's improved on quite a bit during his two Premier League seasons. It's important to remember that he arrived on the English shores as a 20-year-old so there's been a natural physical maturation process as of late -- and it'll likely continue to an extent as he begins to get deeper into his 20s. In addition, by many accounts, he's put in a lot work with the weights and in his diet so that he can become stronger. Furthermore, his technique coming off his line has improved, as has his aggression.

de Gea can actually be over eager in moments in coming off his line and when he doesn't get a clean punch on the ball -- punching away difficult crosses has become his go-to technique rather than hauling them in -- that's when there is still some dodgy moments. Continually punching away balls reduces risk as a whole, however, the technique for it is hugely important so that balls aren't dangerously bouncing around in your own box. Overall though, the 22-year-old has become mostly adequate in commanding his box, even if he's still not dominant in doing it. He still must continue improving in this regard.

Being named into the PFA team of the year was fully deserved for de Gea. He's had a few shaky moments but not merely as often nor to the extent that some lazy observers would have you believe. In the second-half of the season, though, the Spaniard was nearly flawless for United.

What's next?

Going forward, when considering de Gea's age, his experience now at United, and his obvious talent, there isn't another 'keeper in the world United should prefer over their 22-year-old. He is both the now and future for the club. The main focus now should be to make sure Spanish giants Real Madrid nor FC Barcelona aren't allowed to come poach. de Gea is now one of the foundation pieces of the United squad.

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