If there was an area in which Manchester United and Chelsea find themselves on common ground for the upcoming season, it would be with regard to one of their new signings.
Both have taken up positions that have proven to be difficult to adequately cover at times, perhaps more so for the West London club. Both have paid substantial fees investing in said talent they believe to be long term successors, and those names that have been brought in to do the job required of them have both found their credentials scrutinized and questioned based on their youthful years. Of course this is referring to United’s new goalkeeper David De Gea and the 33 year-old manager at Chelsea, Andre Villas-Boas.
Of course with the undoubted success of Edwin Van Der Sar in recent years at United proving the foundation of the solid defense in front of him, it would be easy to forget the somewhat troublesome years prior to his signing that Sir Alex Ferguson had with goalkeepers, perhaps epitomised by the disastrous spell of one Massimo Taibi. And so with such a chequered past in having a long-term number one choice ‘keeper, it is understandable that Ferguson will have weighed up his options carefully and opted for youth as his hope for securing a true successor to Van Der Sar. And so it has fallen upon the young Spaniard, De Gea, to fill that role. Some have questioned the logic in an investment that has made him the second most expensive goalkeeper in transfer history, particularly given the unproven nature of his talent and the substantial gamble that the transfer figure has implicated.
However, time will be the deciding factor in the success of this young shot-stopper. His performances for Atletico Madrid will have been monitored carefully and his recent showing in the under-21s for Spain have given United fans a glimpse of what they might be expecting when the new season kicks off in August. The pre-season should provide a useful, if brief settling in period before getting down to the real business of fighting for another league title. Sir Alex Ferguson has spoken of his faith in his ability, as would be expected considering the sums of money involved in his signing. It has become clearly that he has tried to find a goalkeeper capable of emulating Van Der Sar, someone who he believes is calm under pressure and is not easily perturbed when threatened and that on the big occasion can take it in his stride. The tall, lanky appearance would also be a common feature associated with United’s previous number one, making clear the template that Ferguson has tried to fit. Some may argue that such attributes are more welcome as opposed to those of the young German, Manuel Neuer who has shown himself to be superb between the posts, but may not have been able to keep the cool head that would have been needed, as demonstrated in United’s defeat of Schalke in the Champion’s League where he seemed to get frustrated leading to a couple of mistakes.
Regardless of the questions raised about De Gea in relation to his age, what it will come down to is the results people see on the pitch. A gamble has been taken in that any mistake made will be attributed to his age and the blame placed on the possible inflated price that was paid for him. But the coaching staff at United clearly believe in the investment they have made and have faith that such a signing is beneficial as a long-time foundation behind the back four, for many years to come. Although one must wonder if Anders Lindegaard is not to be dismissed.