at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
MANCHESTER, United Kingdom – David de Gea will become the best goalkeeper in the world within the next two years, according to his Manchester United team-mate Javier Hernandez.
Spanish shot-stopper de Gea has had a torrid start to his Old Trafford career since arriving from Atletico Madrid in 2011, appearing to struggle with the physicality of English football and the increased number of crosses he is expected to deal with in the Premier League.
While still looking vulnerable to balls coming into the box, de Gea was otherwise in fine form on Wednesday during the Champions League draw against Real Madrid and made several excellent saves in what many observers regarded as his best United appearance yet.
As a fellow Spanish speaker, Mexico striker Hernandez has developed a close relationship with de Gea especially as he too has found himself having to deal with the additional rough and tumble that comes the way of forwards playing against Premier League defenders.
“A lot of people who know about football know that David is a top-class goalkeeper,” Hernandez told MUTV, United's in-house television station.
“That is why Manchester United bought him.
“They saw how good he can be. If he wasn't at the right level to play at this club he wouldn't be here and they are trying to look after him.
“To me, he is a complete goalkeeper. You see the great saves he made on Wednesday. He can also play with his feet, which is very useful to see in a goalkeeper,” Hernandez added.
“Other people are speaking about when he has to go out and clear the corners and free-kicks. They say that is the weak part of his game.
“But I think he is doing brilliant and in a couple of years he will be the number one in the world.”
And Hernandez insisted de Gea had not been hurt by criticism from beyond the confines of Old Trafford.
“David is very focused and doesn't care about what people say about him,” said Hernandez. “He has a lot of confidence. He doesn't need to listen to what people say about him.
“He should just play and enjoys it because he knows he can be number one in the world.”
And United manager Alex Ferguson has insisted de Gea is making good progress.
“What people say didn't worry us before, so why should we worry afterwards,” said Ferguson. “There will still be occasions when he finds it difficult in terms of the physical part.
“But he is getting stronger and next year he will be better.”
Nevertheless, reserve goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard is set to feature in Monday's FA Cup fifth round tie with Reading after Ferguson pledged to make changes to his side.
Danish keeper Lindegaard has made just one appearance since a dismal performance the last time the two sides met at the Madejski Stadium in December when he was criticised for his contribution to goals conceded in a 4-3 win. — Sapa-AFP