ITV do Manchester United, De Gea and football no favours

David De Gea

In the absence of players communicating the newly-intensified rivalry between the two clubs by kicking each other and using terminology that belongs in a movie based in America’s Deep South at the start of the last century, ITV needed something to talk about. Liverpool and Manchester United’s FA Cup 4th Round tie sizzled and threatened to take off, but largely involved shadow boxing mixed with bursts of the real thing. In the 21st minute came the chance.

Liverpool, in an almost Pulis-esque stroke of maximising an advantage over an opponent, crowded around David De Gea prior to a corner kick. It was football’s version of survival of the fittest with De Gea clearly identified as the weakest of the herd. The cross came into that sort of grey area where commentators presume the goalkeeper can saunter off his line and pluck it out of the air and people who have played the position at any level know it’s never that straightforward. There was a shamozle – a comedy word carefully chosen to communicate the general disorder of the situation – and Daniel Agger rose unchallenged to head the opening goal. The replays showed United players falling over each other and the Dane converting the surprisingly facile chance. All that was lacking was a Benny Hill soundtrack and some canned laughter.

The uncertainty of De Gea’s panicky run didn’t flatter him. In the eyes of the commentators the fact none of the United defenders mustered even a faint challenge to Agger could be ignored and the goalkeeper singled out as the culprit – clueless, weak and an object to be bullied. Sadly, there were plenty of things to criticise De Gea for – the overall lack of command of his penalty area; the fumbly handling of the ball we rarely saw at Atletico Madrid; the strange mix of silly overconfidence on some occasions and the obvious lack of confidence on others – both of which lead to some poor choices. Despite some decent saves, he didn’t have a good game. Any decent analysis would have highlighted this and not just focused on one supposed howler. Criticism was warranted, but what we got was a shallow attack which skirted around the actual problems.

In the studio, the producers pointed their pundits to the incident like dog-handlers directing their famished charges to prime ribeye. It was seized upon it and the opinions for hire duly obliged. Paul Ince mumbled some comments about it not being good enough in that geezer-ish manner of talk that seems to undermine his points regardless if they’re valid or not. Roy Keane – licking his lips at the free rein to have a go at United – was arguably the least helpful, suggesting that De Gea’s confidence would get the requisite boost if he could only go out there “and nail somebody”. Wise words for someone suffering a drought in the bedroom department, less so for a young goalkeeper trying to find his feet in the Premier League.

The sense of mindlessly kicking a man when he’s down wasn’t helped later in the game when – clearly riding the wave of unwarranted viciousness – co-commentator, Jim Beglin decreed that the young Spaniard should have done better in preventing Kuyt’s winner. Perhaps getting De Gea confused with Mr. Potatohead or any other toy with detachable limbs, Beglin suggested the goalie ‘could have thrown a leg at it’. If there is a hierarchy of knee-jerk comments, this was at the lower end of the scale just a step above ‘the complete drivel’ label. The keeper could have done nothing about it. Evra was sleeping. The ball fell perfectly for Kuyt on his stronger foot. Talking a conservative estimate, he would have hit the ball at a speed of about 60mph at a distance of about 6 yards from the goalkeeper who was a couple of yards off his line. That gives De Gea an approximate reaction time of around one fifth of a second, the point where any save is almost entirely down to dumb luck rather than superhuman reactions. Not for the first time in his punditry career, Beglin’s analysis was overly simplistic and hinted towards populist pandering.

The benefit of time and increased hindsight hadn’t brought much enlightenment to the highlights show. Gordon Strachan and Neil Warnock – the latter looking like life outside management has given him a new lease of life and Brylcreem – toed the line and blurted out what they were told to with the absence of genuine balanced critique. Not dissimilar to his post-match rants, Warnock focussed on an incident that didn’t decide the game and ignored the numerous issues that did decide the game. Again the incident for the 1st goal was the centre of attention and the various other errors largely swept under the carpet – chiefly the silly fumbles that gave Liverpool hope when they were rendered largely toothless by an industrious United midfield. Considering that both Warnock and Strachan have both been at various times considered hot managerial property in the British game, it doesn’t reflect well on how some managers approach the role of the custodian. If this is how respected figures are happy to talk about young goalkeeping talent, is it any wonder that the Premier League has a string of indigenous talent between the posts that has already been knocked down repeatedly throughout their careers?

There is a point to all this grumbling and once again it’s the lack of understanding of the goalkeeper’s role. ITV are an entertainment business and their obligation is to deliver profit for their shareholders. They are free to take as short-sighted and sensationalist a view as they see fit. The pundits however are under no obligation to mindlessly take the bait. It was saddening that not one of the experts took an opposing view or declined the opportunity to slate De Gea for an offence his defenders were at least partially to blame. De Gea clearly has his problems, but he’ll eventually get over them. The problem of the media misunderstanding the goalkeeper may be something that’s harder to eradicate and have far more damaging consequences.

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15 thoughts on “ITV do Manchester United, De Gea and football no favours

  1. Talk about blatant Utd fan whining and bleeting after yet another bad day against Liverpool. De Gea has been a waste of space all season not just one game. And anyone who knows the game saw how much attention he paid Carroll on the first goal, he was all over the place and bottled it completely. As for the second it was struck almost at him and he fluffed it big time standing still. There were numerous other incidents in the game where he was lost at sea. Andy Carroll has taken stick all season and no-one defended him. The difference is Carroll is a man unlike you and De Gea and he gets on with bettering himself and has potential. De Gea is weak and scared and won’t cut it at this level. Utd are suffering a lack of resource,a lack of fight and a lack of character. The winds of change are afoot and Fergie and his empire are about to crumble and the sooner Gill is out of the F.A set-up the less bias we will have towards the team who does nothing but moan when they are winning nothing and look to blame everyone but themselves. It is people like you my friend who do football a dis-service.

    • I don’t really know where to begin.
      Firstly, I know DDG had a poor game on Saturday and across the board what he has produced for MUFC hasn’t been of a high enough standard. It’s not a defence of De Gea, I was simply asking if ITV looked at the right things in their analysis of him, which they largely didn’t.
      I didn’t bring it up, but as you did, I’ll say I also happen to think the way Andy Carroll has been treated in the media has been shameful and his performances better than he has been given credit for.
      To answer your wonderings, I’m a Liverpool fan for 25 years. I want to see the club do well, but I also believe, Ii you’re a football fan, supporting one team shouldn’t come at the expense of wanting to see good football and a higher level of critique than we got on Sunday.

  2. spartakews

    You got it in one mate, no further comment is needed except to say Liverpool could have had a bagfull if they hadn’t laid off De Gea, after the goal they took pity on him.

  3. Fantastic article and great read. Every word of it rings true. Made me chuckle also.

    Not one single word of intelligent insight or sense was spoken by either host, commentator nor pundit on Saturday.

    Now i’m a mild-mannered person whom it takes a lot to make me lose my temper, but Adrian Chiles’ awful attempted jokes, mis-informed opinions together with his horrible little pug looking radio face had me seconds away from putting my foot through my own plasma screen.

    ITVs all round coverage of sport is the lowest of the low. Lets hope the end is near for them.

  4. Don’t take it to heart, lads. De Gea will be a fine goalkeeper for a Championship club in a few years. That club will be Manchester United.

  5. My God.. how much drivel can one person write.. I read on just to see when eventually you would come to that place called STOP.

    You are of cousre 100 per cent wrong. The criticism of Elvis de gea ( really mate get a hair cut, might help for starters) was totally justified !!
    He was rubbish all game and has been all season.. Fergie is back to what he does best, picking dodgy keepers. Smicheal and Van de sarr aside he hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory picking keepers for the last quarter of a century !!

    Im no Roy keane fan but what you failed to point out was he was entirely correct in his analysis when he pointed out the importance of the goal keeper and that the league could come down to the two keepers at the manchester clubs. Now your obviously in the goal keepers union, so you’ll need no persuading as to just how important they are when winning titles .. god knows Schmiceal won ye enough of them . So City have the outstanding Joe Hart, who is simply the best goal keeper in the country ( sorry pepe but its true) and Man utd have a guy that for all the world looks like he was just introduced into the art of goal keeping !!

    Now when you pay nearly 20m for a keeper , its a kin to paying 35m for a striker.. Nobody is cutting Caroll any slack so why should de gea get any.. He like caroll has simply failed to live up to the level of performance either club believed they woul get for the vast sums of money spent… So down of your high horse and back in your box mate..

    P.s, As much as it galls me to say it keane was right, he was also right when he said de gea should nail someone. Schmicheal took team mates and opposition players out of the game.. thats what world class keepers do, command their box and go trough anything in their way to get to that ball as if it were his first born baby flying trough the air !!

    And Beglin was also right.. He could have done better for Kyuts goal.. Joe Hart would have saved it .. case closed.. Blue ribbons on the premiership me thinks .. Unless ferguson reverts back to lindergarrd (spelling ??) who is clearly a better keeper than De gea.

    • The Fox,
      Your comments only serve to back-up my point:
      The way ITV (and other media) cover goalkeepers gives people the wrong idea of what to expect from goalkeepers. I’m no defending De Gea at all, he was very poor, but I would like better analysis than banging a drum about a problem that was only in part down to him.

      The rough calculations indicate De Gea or any other keeper had NO CHANCE of estimating where Kuyt’s shot was going, doing the sums in his head and then his brain sending the required impulses to the correct part of his body in the 0.2 seconds he had to react. At that reaction time, no-one would have time to react – not top class goalie’s, not batsmen facing pace bowling, not F1 drivers avoid cars travelling a high speed by a matter of millimetres.

      If Keane was right, explain to me first what “nail somebody” means and secondly how it helps De Gea? If you can convince me it’s anything more than utter drivel, you’ll be doing well.

      And as I said earlier, I don’t like the treatment Andy Carroll has got and it’s not an accurate reflection of his performances.

  6. i think the writer has gone as overboard as the itv panel on this to be honest, although I agree with the sentiment that too much emphasis has been placed on de gea’s role in the first goal….he was culpable, as were the united defenders… this is an area united struggle in and an area other clubs will try to exploit, with smalling, evans and de gea (and evra and rafael) all weak under pressure of decent set pieces
    his overall prformance was poor, and he deserves criticism….the impact of a poor keeping performance and its undermining effect it has on the defence and its tactics cannot be underestimated, as well as the encouragement it provides to the opposition
    however, the united defence deserves its share of the criticism, in that it failed to defend/support de gea for both goals…and that should have been given attention to……nice to evra culpable for the winner ultimately, and to be honest i would have expected far more focus on that given he was captain for the day and united’s most experienced defender on the pitch….but no doubt he had an excuse for his poor positioning and lack of concentration at a critical moment in the game

    • Keyo,
      we actually agree on more points than we differ. De Gea was poor, for all of the reasons you outline above but sadly ITV didn’t highlight all of the reasons above. As a private enterprise, they’re free to choose whatever editorial stance they want, but the cost of pundits laying into goalkeepers for the wrong reasons has knock on effects beyond their balance sheet.

  7. Great article. Goalkeeper Knocking is easy if you have never played there. This is one of my biggest irritants in football and I see it so often in youth football hence the high drop out rate of goalkeepers in the 11-15 age bracket.

    De Gea is a good keeper. Problem is the “experts” look for the slightest bit of evidence that he isn’t. I feel sorry for the lad and I am sure that in time he will prove these people wrong.

  8. ITV pundits have watched De Gea flunk all season, there is no way to defend his performances this season. He is 22 and a year younger than Andy Carroll. Carroll is labelled as finished at Liverpool already for not scoring enough goals but we are expected to sit and listen to drivel like this about De Gea being young and still learning. When you are poor, you are poor. In spain there are two good teams and most goalies would be made to look good over there. He is out of his depth here and all ITV did on Saturday was highlite the guy’s weaknesses which have existed all season long. The role of the goalkeeper is crystal clear!! To command his penalty box, marshall his defence and limit the ability for the oppnent to score goals. De Gea failed in every single one of those during Saturday’s game and many others this season. He did not do the job of a goalkeeper in any sense. It was impossible to be objective about anyone else when discussing De Gea, because his role was the one in question and his alone. He failed to do his job, forget the rest, he did not do what he was bought for which was to KEEP GOAL!!! As for breeding unrealistic expectations do me a favour, The expectation on De Gea is the same as any other keeper in this country but the rest do what they are paid for, De Gea fails to time and time again. Like I said, you are taking a very bised view on one of your own and failing to understand that the expectation on any professional player is the same and if anyone should be sanctioned for De Geas punishment in the spotlight of a big game it is his manager, not the T.V pundits. Lindegaard can do the job so why drop him? If you want to play with the big boys you have to step up to the plate. And you have to learn to take criticism like a man. I find it insulting that people can say that people have not understood the role of the goalkeeper. Enrique made one mistake in the match and was blamed failrly and squarely for contributing to the Man Utd goal. I don’t hear anyone saying they have misunderstood the role of a defender when criticising him. You are not being objective against ITV you are merely trying to defend one of your own. Tell me this, what is the difference between Joe Hart WHEN HE WAS 21 and David De Gea. Hart is probably the best keeper in the Premier League right now and De Gea the worst. Hart was as good at 21 as any keeper in the league.Do not insult peoples intelligence by accusing them of not understanding the difference between a good goalkeeper and a bad one or of misunderstanding the role of a goalkeeper. I am only surprised that ITV did not use the same comparison when slagging De Gea off .The Goalkeeper is a specialist position and David De Gea does not specialise in the role. Joe Hart on the other hand does!! Against Liverpool Joe Hart made 5 world class saves in the two Carling Cup games and kept City in it. Even when his defence let him down he made crucial saves. De Gea is bad for goalkeepers not ITV and Joe Hart is the example young keepers should be following. It is about the man himself and not the pundits on T.V, and Fergie has made a bad buy with De Gea whatever view you have about ITV. The Manchester evining news were far more scathing than ITV after that performance on Saturday and say he should be taken away from Old Trafford until he learns to control his penalty area. ITV are not alone in missing your point it seems.!!

    • I’m not blindly defending De Gea or goalkeepers in general from criticism, I’m merely pointing out that the criticism on Saturday focussed too much on one incident and not enough on the other flaws.
      I’m not slagging Andy Carroll and I agree that Joe Hart is a quality keeper. As with all goalkeepers there will be mistakes in the future and when they come, I want the pundits to provide better analysis than we got on Saturday. This is not defending one player at the cost of slagging another, it’s a call for better analysis of goalkeepers than we currently get. I absolutely think the way De Gea was discussed does nothing to help public perception of what a goalkeeper should be.

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