David de Gea or Anders Lindegaard – A Red-Devilish dilemma

By at 11:00 am 05/10/2012

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Both Anders Lindegaard and David de Gea will have realised just how tough life is between the sticks at Old Trafford. Expectations are high. The levels of patience are low and even lower in a season when the team is trying to regain a title. Two clean sheets in nine matches (one each) in all competitions this season has lead to a firm focus on the team’s defence.

While Manchester City are having problems of their own in this department (yet to keep a clean sheet in a competitive game this season), their escape with a point against Dortmund last night highlighted the importance of a top class goalkeeper. Joe Hart gave a man of the match display keeping his side in with a chance when they should have had none.

He showed leadership, courage and impressive reflexes not usually associated with English internationals in the recent past. In Romania on Tuesday, Manchester United‘s number one showed equally impressive reflexes and concentration to help us pull out a win during a nervous finish. However, our number one is not guaranteed a first team place against Newcastle. In fact, he’ll almost certainly take his place on the bench.

All the talk coming out of Carrington in pre-season seemed to confirm a confidence within the club that David de Gea was ready for this season. There would be no more physical harassment from the likes of West Brom or Stoke as he had bulked up and also had the experience from last season to draw on.

The early nerves which manifested themselves in poor footwork during de Gea’s first few games and at times had cost us dearly in both the league and Europe had been a mere obstacle of youth that all players encounter when making their breakthrough. Then the season started. Everton spotted and ruthlessly exploited the team’s weakness in the air. De Gea was not at fault for the Toffee’s winner but Ferguson was rattled. His Wenger-like comments about Everton “just lumping the ball forward” to Fellaini revealed that he had been stung by that defeat.

Then came the Fulham game. The team were cruising towards three points after some splendid attacking play before a rather harmless looking cross from Matthew Briggs lead to a mix up in which neither Vidic nor de Gea looked too clever. The Spaniard got caught the wrong side and was easily nudged away by Petric whilst Vidic messed up the header instead letting the ball hit off his heel and into the empty net. De Gea produced two fine saves to deny Dembele and another to stop a Ruiz header in the frenzied final twenty minutes.  It wasn’t enough to stop the manager publicly blaming him for the goal ahead of the Southampton game and dropping him in favour of Lindegaard. The Dane has started all four league games since keeping a clean sheet against Wigan and guarding the net in three wins and a loss.

While the Dane looks a better physical presence and a solid goalkeeper, the feeling remains that de Gea has the ability to pull out a special save that earns you a point or three when the team might not deserve it, as he did against Chelsea last season. That ability marks out all the world’s top goalkeepers; Casillas, Buffon, Neuer and Hart all possess this but they all also do the basics so well that it gets taken for granted.

The basic side of his game is what de Gea lacks at the moment but the only way to gain this is through constant practice in the first team. His treatment seems particularly harsh in light of recent games where our full backs have repeatedly made errors in their positioning yet continue to start on a regular basis. When the two goalkeepers’ records are compared this season, Sir Alex’s decision looks even harsher – David De Gea: P5, GA 5, CS 1; Anders Lindegaard: P4, C6, C1. Admittedly, Lindegaard has played Liverpool away and Tottenham at home but even so Ferguson’s argument for keeping de Gea on the bench is looking shaky.

Lindegaard will be expected to start away at Newcastle, especially with the physical and aerial threat they possess in Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse.  Those who remember last January’s demolition at the *shudder* Sports Direct Arena will have their doubts as to whether Lindegaard should be trusted in this game.

His lack of communication with Phil Jones lead to the comical third goal to top off the teams embarrassment and he has not shown any particular strength in that area since judging by the porous defence on display this season. That argument can be levelled at de Gea too but the language barrier may play a part there. De Gea also has better distribution skills and ball control than his rival as shown by his delightful skip away from Petric during that ill-fated game against Fulham.

It also must be mentioned that goalkeepers in England are suffering from intense scrutiny as most of the top four have taken a chance on relatively young goalkeepers as number one; Manchester City have Joe Hart, Arsenal have Wojciech Szczesny, Tottenham have Hugo Lloris and there’s even Newcastle United with Tim Krul.

This has lead to a lot of tit-for-tat criticism of any mistakes these goalkeepers make on Twitter and in the media. Every mistake transforms into a goalkeeping crisis.

The opposition start adding fuel to the fire as Adam Lallana did before the Southampton game stating that they would target the Red Devils at set pieces due to the error against Fulham. The patience that was being preached about by fans as each side signed these goalkeepers becomes harder to display when the league heats up.

De Gea will surely have learned whatever lesson Ferguson was trying to teach him over the past month. He showed great mental strength in the final stretch of last season when reclaiming his starting place from Lindegaard and has the capacity and skill to do it again. Lindegaard has a place in the squad as a solid back up but de Gea has the sheen of a possible solution for the next 15 years or so at Old Trafford. Every fan will have their own opinion on who should hold the first team spot. The people in support of the league and cup rotation between the two however, are in the minority. A point will come soon when Ferguson will have to decide on a number one and stick with them. A red-devilish dilemma indeed.

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