One of the better things to come from the end of last season was the establishment of David De Gea, not just as our first choice goalkeeper, but as one of the top goalkeepers in the Premier League, certainly from January onwards. After a nervous start when was rightly blamed for a few mistakes, he found the finger wrongly pointing towards him after almost every single goal conceded by Manchester United. Free header six yards out? The keeper should be claiming that. Unstoppable strike from the edge of the area? Edwin would have saved that.
Despite such negativity, he was able to hold his head high by the end of the season with saves such as the one from Mata in the 90th minute at Stamford Bridge worth points on their own. His form continued into the new season, his outstanding shot-stopping ability being one of the main reasons we escaped Old Trafford with all three points last weekend. Unfortunately, Ferguson decided that the keeper’s role in one of the goals that we did concede warranted being dropped, having decided that De Gea was reckless in coming for the cross that ended up bouncing in of Nemanja Vidic.
I think young David made a mistake last week. He knows it. With the form he’s been in, he’s been making some fantastic saves but one error like that could have cost us the game. It’s just a learning process for him and he’ll be back in a couple of weeks after the international break. ‘Anders had his first game. I thought he was a little bit nervous at points but he’s a very good keeper also. I don’t think it’s a big issue but it’s something you have to deal with.
I know it’s completely taboo to criticise Sir Alex Ferguson in any way, but this really is a horrific way to handle the goalkeeper. It could damage his confidence in the short term and make him scared of mistakes in the long term. It sends completely the wrong message; the message that no matter how well you play it is your mistakes that will be remembered and influence the manager’s decision making.
I’m not even going to go into the apportioning blame game here, because I still don’t think De Gea was totally at fault for the goal. I feel he’s fouled by the Fulham player who clearly jumps towards him, and not towards the ball, when the cross comes over. Vidic misses his header too but, no, De Gea finds himself lumbered with the blame as is disproportionately often the case. So, for the purposes of this discussion, let’s assume we are all in agreement that it was completely David’s fault.
How, then, will he be feeling when Robin van Persie lines up for Manchester United after the international break? By Fergie’s own definition, RvP made an “error that could have cost us the game”. RvP also won us the game with his individual performance, something that Dave did against Fulham. What are we doing with Van Persie? Are we dropping him because of the mistake that could have cost us the game, or are we keeping him in the side because his overall performance contributed to our win? What’s it gonna be, Fergie? You can’t have it both ways.
If you’re doing to drop one player for making an honest mistake during an otherwise outstanding performance, are you going to keep another player in the side after making a stupid mistake in a similar scenario? If so, what’s the difference? Why is one punished but not the other?
I’m not calling for Robin van Persie to be dropped. That would be utterly dead-brained. What I’m doing is pointing out how strange the decision to drop Dave was, and how potentially damaging it could be. Such victimization, if you can call it that, is how players end up not seeing eye-to-eye with the manager. Dave will have sat there, saw Van Persie fuck his penalty right up, and felt a strange sense of deja vu. I’m not sure he’ll feel the same when the next team sheet goes up.
That would be a terrible shame, given what we know about all of the Manchester United players who don’t see eye-to-eye with Sir Alex. Or, should I say, ex-Manchester United players…