OPINION: Man United might have to consider a new goalkeeper coach for David de Gea
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CAPE TOWN – It’s safe to say that Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea isn’t having the best of times right now.
The 29-year-old Spaniard has been blamed for a number of costly mistakes that have resulted in goals in games the club have failed to win. Just how on Earth did we get here? It was not too long ago when the entire world was raving about him, and memes about his extraordinary feats were created on a daily basis.
When you Google “David de Gea” these days, chances are you will get results of every Tom, Dick and Harry saying ‘He’s over the hill’, ‘He needs to make way for Dean Henderson’, or ‘He needs to be benched’.
Rio Ferdinand is just about the only one who has stood for his former team-mate and urged Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United to stick with him.
When teams start performing poorly, we tend to blame the managers and head coaches and demand they be changed in order to get results back on track. It’s happened with every Manchester United boss since Ales Ferguson retired, Solskjaer included. With Solskjaer, the club’s board have decided to be a little patient.
When managers get blamed for teams’ poor form, why then do we not blame goalkeeper coaches when the men between the sticks start to display poor form?
When De Gea first arrived at Manchester United, then goalkeeper coach Eric Steel felt the 19-year-old was a bit slow to react when shots came in low and was not sure enough with high balls and those were the areas of his game he worked to rectify.
In 2014, Edwin van der Sar believed Frans Hoek, who the club had appointed alongside Louis van Gaal, would turn De Gea into a world-class goalkeeper. Van der Sar had worked with Hoek in his early Ajax Amsterdam days, so he knew what he was talking about.
“He groomed me and helped me learn all the thing I needed to know to be a successful footballer over a lot of years,” Van der Sar was quoted six years ago.
At United, Hoek transformed the gangly Spaniard into a superstar, the best goalkeeper in the world between 2014 and 2017. De Gea’s weaknesses suddenly became his strengths, and at times, he was near impossible to beat. Emilio Alvarez, who worked with Jose Mourinho continued Hoek’s work, and De Gea was regarded as the best in the world.
Last year, Alvarez, who was De Gea’s mentor when he was at Atletico Madrid, left and was replaced by Leeds United’s Richard Hartis. Since then, De Gea’s old habits have crept back into his game. He still has amazing reflexes, but is unsure when coming out to collect high balls, and doesn’t react as quickly for low shots as he did four or five years ago.
It seems like the problem is not De Gea himself, but the man charged with making sure he is as sharp as possible. Manchester United don’t need to drop David de Gea. Manchester United need to get David de Gea a new goalkeeper coach. Perhaps they could even coax Hoek into returning to the club.