1st Team Squad Goalkeepers: David de Gea, Anders Lindegaard, Ben Amos, Tomasz Kuszczak, Sam Johnstone
Overview: Sir Alex Ferguson has had something of a mixed bag when it comes to picking his goalkeepers. Spotting Schmeichel and van der Sar were two moments of inspiration, but sadly the list of custodians who failed to meet the standards required at Manchester United is far longer. Fergie has taken a risk in signing the 20 year old Spaniard for a rather colossal fee, but clearly the Scotsman and his goalkeeping coach, Eric Steele have concluded the rewards could potentially far exceed the outlay. As I’ve said several times before, I think de Gea has the talent to handle the Premier League and go on to be the United keeper for many years to come and it’s that possible longevity that will ha. The only question comes in the form of his ability to cope with the immense pressure he’ll feel at Old Trafford. It will be far more intense and unforgiving than anything he experienced at Atletico Madrid and – most worryingly – has the capacity to be downright savage and dent the confidence of even the most grounded and self-confident of players. De Gea seems to have an excellent attitude, but if the press and in turn the fans start to get on his back, it will take real mental strength to pull through. What’s worrying is that there will be a few mistakes along the way. That’s a guarantee with every single goalkeeper in the world as opposed to a criticism of de Gea. The Community Shield was a rude awakening for him. Criticism for the second goal was somewhat understandable, but the fact plenty of people were also blaming him for the first tells you all you need to know about the hypercritical environment he now finds himself. He’s still learning his trade and for all his agility, handling skills and technical ability, there will be times when he makes the wrong call and may hand the opposition a goal or at least a gilt-edged chance. If it happens with too much frequency towards the start of his Old Trafford career, I fear it will be the start of a losing battle that he may never win.
In reserve, United have some strength. Anders Lindegaard arrived last season to throw the cat amongst the van der Sar replacement pigeons and he’ll have ambitions of being the surprise successor in his own right. He’s mainly been limited to reserve team appearances since arriving, but the reports coming from the games were largely positive. Tomasz Kuszczak remains at the club, but it looks to be only a matter of time before he leaves. His hopes of being the dark horse of the race to replace the Dutchman took a major knock thanks to a shaky display at Ewood Park towards the end of the season. He can still do a job for a Premier League team, but Man Utd expect higher standards than he seems to be able to provide. Ben Amos had been the big young hope at the club prior to the arrival of de Gea, but he’s been bumped down the pecking order and the chances are he’ll go out on loan for at least a part of the season. He’s one of very few England-qualified goalkeepers to have tasted Champions League football in recent years, but the suspicion remains that he’ll need to progress before seriously challenging for the United starting berth.
Worst case scenario: The major worry would be that de Gea doesn’t handle the pressure at Old Trafford and turns into the latest expensive flop. Already,events at Wembley will have given him an idea of what to expect. If Fergie loses faith, he may decide to turn to Lindegaard, but in that case the fear is Peter Schmeichel’s assertion that he’s not good enough to Man Utd number 1 comes to pass and United are left with a couple of under-performing goalkeepers who are low on confidence.
Most likely outcome: De Gea will prove to be the rational and levelheaded youngster he’s always come across as and settle perfectly well into the team. There will be the odd error to begin with, but with Lindegaard putting pressure on him for the position, he ups his game and gets over it.