De Gea showing signs of delivering for Manchester United

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Manchester United

1st Team Goalkeepers: David de Gea (21), Anders Lindegaard (28), Sam Johnstone (19), Ben Amos (22) [on loan at Hull]

It’s safe to say that wasn’t quite the debut season David de Gea had in mind when he made the move from Atletico Madrid, but a strong second half of the campaign ensured he’s far from a write off just yet. In the first few months of the season he was roundly criticised for not being able to handle the generic ‘tough stuff’ often ascribed to the Premier League. There may be a kernel of truth in that, but it falls some way sort of explaining the variety of errors from de Gea.

Personally, I would put his mistakes down to over-thinking. Essentially, what we have is a young man in a foreign country doing one of the most high pressure jobs in world football. Certainly in his early days, his desire not to make mistakes seemed to make his sluggish to react and he failed to execute some fairly routine skills. As he settled however, he felt more comfortable and his natural instincts came into play. He was far sharper and alert in the second half of the season and if he maintains the progression, United may well have a high quality performer for the next decade or more.

Anders Lindegaard was the man who capitalised on de Gea’s troubles early on. He was very determined to become first choice at Old Trafford and he impressed when Fergie chopped and changed in the early part of the season. His honeymoon period wasn’t going to last forever and some ill-advised decisions of his own made him look less like the answer to United’s goalkeeping issues. He still remains a good option to have in reserve, but certainly de Gea is expected to be first choice for the majority of the season.

Ben Amos has been allowed to go out on loan to Hull for a season. He has performed reasonably well when called up for first team duty, but barring an injury crisis, he’s unlikely to see much playing time this season and the move makes sense. Sam Johnstone could also benefit for first team action somewhere, but Fergie might just keep him around for the occasional Capital One Cup outing.

With Robin van Persie coming on board, it’s a time for optimism at Old Trafford, but if de Gea’s development hits a stumbling block, it has the potential to derail the progress.

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Euro 2012 – Group B goalkeeping preview

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Rarely has there been a stronger group assembled in international football. With all four members of Group B nestled inside FIFA’s top 10, it’s been labeled the ‘group of death’. It doesn’t lack for goalkeeping talent either and here’s a rundown of the twelve vying for game time at Euro 2012.

Denmark

The Danes go into the tournament with a trio of goalkeepers lacking experience at international level. Between them Stephan Andersen, Kasper Schmiechel and Anders Lindegaard have a grand total of 15 caps.

Anderson (30) is likely to get the nod by virtue of his slight advantage in experience and strong showing for Evian in Ligue 1. He’s a very technically correct goalkeeper with good reflexes and tidy hands. He’s arguably the least globally famous of the Danes goalkeeping ranks, but he’s a reliable presence.

Lindegaard (28) had a mixed bag of a season for Manchester United. At one point he looked unbeatable and, in contrast to the struggles of David De Gea, the keeper more able to handle the pressure of playing at Old Trafford. It didn’t take long for more suspect performances to come however and combined with the young Spaniard finding his feet, he was relegated to the bench. He wasn’t helped by injury towards the end of the season and his inactivity has counted against him.

It’s hard to disassociate Schmeichel junior with the standards set by his Dad. Examined in his own right, Kasper is a good pro, capable of pulling off some saves, but also a little too error-prone so far in his career. He has played for Denmark’s underage teams, but has yet to earn his first senior cap. If all goes to plan for Morten Olsen and his team, that won’t change at this tournament.

Germany
Manuel Neuer went to World Cup 2010 as the replacement for the tragic Robert Enke. He was good, but a little raw and it showed. Two years on, he’s got two good seasons under his belt and he looks genuinely world-class. His effort to keep out Drogba’s header in the Champions League final wasn’t his finest hour, but it was one possible mistake in a season of excellent performances.

Behind him in the order is the vastly experienced Tim Wiese. Ideally Joachim Loew would prefer not to need him, but if called upon, the 30-year-old newly signed Hoffenheim keeper will be a reliable deputy. He made a few high-profile blunders a few seasons back, but he bounced back to become a more solid keeper. Ever the man for the blunt quote, former Arsenal and Germany keeper Jens Lehmann is less convinced telling the media “If Neuer gets injured, we have no chance.”

The ‘one for the future’ in the goalkeeping division is Ron-Robert Zieler. The former Manchester United youth team player has excelled since returning to his homeland. He has just one senior international cap to his name, but has played for Germany all the way up the age groups, including the successful Under 19 European Championships campaign of 2008.

Netherlands

Spain undoubtedly have the strongest goalkeeping division at the Euros, but the Netherlands are a close second. Maarten Stekelenburg was excellent in the Oranje’s run to the final of the 2010 World Cup and it’s his experience that makes him the preferred number 1 over his two immensely talented rivals.

Michel Vorm goes into the tournament on the back of an excellent season with Swansea. His reputation grew with every Premier League performance. He’s arguably a more agile and athletic keeper than Stekelenburg, but may suffer for being a less authoritative figure under the high ball.

Tim Krul was another Dutchman to have an excellent Premier League season. He has some lightening quick reflexes (see his string of point blank saves for Newcastle this season) and more command of his penalty area than Vorm, so it looks like a lack of experience is the main issue undermining his claims.

Portugal
The official line coming from the Portuguese camp is that the goalkeeping role is up for grabs with each player having an opportunity to impress. That stance was backed up with the rotation used in the friendlies coming in to the tournament.

Rui Patricio of Sporting Lisbon is most likely to get the nod however. He was the choice for the latter stages of the qualifying campaign and is arguably the most naturally talented of the three. He lacks the experience at club of his two older compatriots, but his natural athleticism and reflexes make up for it. His handling can be a little untidy at times, but as that’s some his rivals also sometimes struggle with, it’s not a major disadvantage. Rumours have done the rounds about a possible move the Manchester United and although that makes little sense, it does suggest how highly he is rated.

Eduardo began the road to Poland and Ukraine as the first choice, but lost his place after slipping down the pecking order at Benfica. Something of a penalty saving specialist, he’s an agile keeper, but one that doesn’t exert the greatest command of his penalty area. To his credit, he played all of Portugal’s matches at World Cup 2010, conceding just one goal in four games and keeping three clean sheets.

Beto is almost certainly rated as the third choice of the three. He hasn’t been able to leapfrog Helton at Porto and spent last season on loan in Romania, playing for CFR Cluj. There’s no doubting his supreme agility or tenacity, but you get the feeling he tends to ham it up for the cameras, which isn’t ideal. At 6 foot tall, he lacks height and as a result he can be poor under the high ball.


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Premier League 2011/12 GK Preview: Manchester United

Manchester United

David de Gea

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.

Anders Lindegaard to Man Utd

Anders Lindegaard

‘He’s not good enough’ almost says United legend

There was some frantic googling done yesterday afternoon after news broke that Man Utd were planning to sign Danish goalkeeper, Anders Lindegaard. It didn’t help that we did a lot of this searching under the assumption he’s planning in Denmark when in fact he’s move the move north to the Norwegian top flight. ‘The new Peter Schmeichel’ you say. ‘Middling career in Norway is a sign of real quality, eh?’ It’s not looking good.

To be frank, we know very little about him. If Fergie was going to opt for a young Danish keeper, we would have recommended Jonas Lossl, a keeper we’ve heaped much praise on in the past. To his credit, Lindegaard does a handful of Danish caps to his name, but all that we can deduce from that is he’s slightly better than Thomas Sorensen and little else. Just because he’s the Danish number 1 doesn’t bestow him with any superhuman powers.

It’s times like this that we could use the opinion of a Danish Man Utd goalkeeping legend and right on cue, Peter Schmeichel has piped up. Speaking to the Guardian, he revealed he doesn’t think Lindegaard is good enough to be United’s first choice.

We are talking about Manchester United here. You can look at talent, you can look at young good players, [but] you don’t want that, you want someone who can go in straight away and give performances in 80% of the games that the number one choice goalkeeper will play for Manchester United.

That would seem to tally with our rather more ill-informed and stomach based gut instinct. Our best guess is Van der Sar is retiring and it’s dawned on Tomasz Kuszczak he won’t be getting the promotion so Lindegaard is being brought in as mainly a bench-warmer/Carling Cup starter and the pursuit of David de Gea will continue for several months to come.