Former Man Utd goalkeeping coach Eric Steele has discussed the process of bringing David de Gea to Old Trafford and how he has become “the greatest goalkeeper in the world”.
De Gea again turned in yet another stunning performance to help United record a 3-1 win at Arsenal on Saturday evening, with many now looking upon the Spaniard as the best in the game.
But the Red Devils had to be patient with De Gea after signing him from Atletico Madrid as a 20-year-old in 2011, when Edwin van der Sar hung up his gloves.
There were serious doubts over whether the lanky-looking stopper had what it takes to last in the Premier League, but Steele and Sir Alex Ferguson recognised De Gea’s potential.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Steele recalled how De Gea’s move came about.
“I can only remember Sir Alex Ferguson missing two United matches,” said Steele. “He missed a Manchester derby in 2000 for his son’s wedding. The other time? To scout the brilliant David de Gea.
“I joined United in 2008 and, from that moment, we needed to be ready for the day Edwin Van Der Sar retired.
“I was convinced that a 19-year-old De Gea was the right man to replace him. I showed a three-minute DVD compilation to Sir Alex and then we went to watch him play for Atletico Madrid at Valencia on the night United played Scunthorpe in the League Cup.
“Sir Alex knew he was the right signing inside 65 minutes. David showed composure, concentration and reflexes. He made one terrific save that went through a load of bodies.
“It was a brave decision to commit £17m to a 19-year-old goalkeeper. Sir Alex had been patient with young outfield players before but this was the first time he did it for a goalkeeper.”
A series of mistakes saw Ferguson drop De Gea on a couple of occasions during his first two seasons, but Steele maintains it was all part of the process.
“People targeted David physically but we never changed our programme to improve him. We knew the strength and power would come. Sir Alex and I encouraged him the whole time. Sir Alex did not criticise him. Not once. He left him out at some stages and put him back in but he never shouted at him or put him down.
“And just look at David now! His outstanding quality has always been his calmness and on Saturday night, amid all the penalty-box mayhem, he was a beacon of tranquility. He is the calmest man on the field.
“He makes every kind of save, he dominates his penalty area. He is now the greatest goalkeeper in the world. Only Thibaut Courtois gets close at the moment in England but David is the best.
“He deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Peter Schmeichel. Think about it: Peter joined United at the age of 27, Edwin joined at 35. David, at 27, is only just entering his peak years. Believe me, he is only going to get better.”