David De Gea

David de Gea's road to redemption continues with an actual penalty save

Scott Saunders
That might be a heck of a lot of weight off David de Gea's shoulders
That might be a heck of a lot of weight off David de Gea's shoulders / Justin Setterfield/Getty Images
facebooktwitterreddit

From the London Stadium - There's plenty of narratives to run away with from Manchester United's victory at West Ham on Sunday afternoon.

Take your obvious Jesse Lingard redemption story after a difficult two years and a sloppy back-pass in midweek, who came back to haunt the club that made him believe in himself again.

There's your fresh shouts of "Mark Noble for England!" to scream out loud, perhaps stronger as he now knows how it feels to be substituted on with the sole duty of missing a penalty. There's the Bruno Fernandes x Cristiano Ronaldo tandem working a treat when United need them again and don't forget why everyone wants Declan Rice.

But what of David de Gea? The former best goalkeeper in the world - for a period, we all remember his superhuman patch - who has seen a series of costly individual errors creep into his game since 2018. His mentality has been questioned and he's made Roy Keane, and I quote, "sick to death", though admittedly that doesn't take much.

De Gea's stock has fallen to the point where his place as United's first choice goalkeeper has come under fire, and rightly so. Dean Henderson has been waiting in the wings, and may have even been in goal for United's latest win had it not been for an injury and a bout of COVID.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer even admitted before the game that a long-term decision still has to be made, so we've not heard the last of it. Henderson will push De Gea for the position until one of them leaves.

What we've seen from De Gea so far this season, though, is something of a quiet renaissance - perhaps with an exclamation point added as he finally saved a penalty after what's seemed like years of having no hope of stopping anything from 12 yards.

United's players ran in their streams towards their goalkeeper at the final whistle, and while it may have been in gratitude to De Gea for sealing the win, perhaps it's something deeper. De Gea has attracted consistent criticism over a long period, and this looked as much a show of support for the Spaniard as it did a celebration of three points.

You only have to think back to May, and that shocker of a Europa League final penalty defeat to Villarreal - where De Gea saw 11 straight penalties put past him before he was given the glorious opportunity of missing his own. Geronimo Rulli made a save which will have seen De Gea want the ground to swallow him up. It seemed the right point for Solskjaer to transition away for good.

But De Gea deserves credit - he's knuckled down over the summer and reacted well in the early part of the season. You can't quite explain how it felt to see him actually come off his line to clear an opposing through ball in an earlier game this season (he doesn't do that), and there were even signs against Wolves of a return to former self with a particularly remarkable double save.

Sunday may have been another level raised. Noble's penalty may have been tame but it's a save that'll do wonders for rebuilding the confidence of one of the finest goalkeepers the Premier League has seen.

Perhaps United's players sensed that too.


For more from Scott Saunders, follow him on Twitter!

facebooktwitterreddit