David de Gea has hit back at critics in Spain after producing a nightmare blunder during his side’s 3-3 draw with Portugal in their opening game of the 2018 World Cup.
The Spaniard, having been sent the wrong way by a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty after three minutes, saw a routine effort from the former Manchester United forward slip through his fingers to restore Portugal’s lead.
There was little he could do about Ronaldo’s stunning third – the defining moment of the game – but the lasting emotions from Spanish supporters in the aftermath was one of fury towards their keeper.
Speaking moments after the final whistle, De Gea hit back at the severity of criticisms towards him, noting that everyone made mistakes.
“I like that there are criticisms,” he said. “Diego Costa has also been criticised and he scored two goals. I haven’t killed anyone, either. I’m happy with the national team.”
“I don’t see much that they support me from Spain. My own criticism is bad enough. I would have liked that they defend me more in a difficult moment in my life, with an issue from outside the game. I am happy with the support from the manager and the lads.
“This can happen. It’s a mistake. We put on our gloves and go out into the field and we know how difficult it is. I count on the support of the coach and my colleagues to continue. I will stay calm.
“It was a difficult ball, I’ll keep training and try to do things right. I haven’t killed anyone.”
The relationship between De Gea and Man United fans is one of pure affection. Supporters relentlessly hail him as the best in the world, their best player by far, perhaps their best goalkeeper ever – even eclipsing the two giants Peter Schmeichel and Edwin van der Sar.
With Spain, however, it has always been more complicated. De Gea is notably hostile towards the way he is presented in the national media. The way he allowed Ronaldo’s shot to overcome him indicated a measure of self doubt playing for La Roja that seems inconceivable when wearing a United shirt.
It was a testament to how, today, that relationship with your supporters and the media can have an enduring effect on your psychology in the big moments. He didn’t make a single mistake which led to a goal last season at Old Trafford. He made one within 45 minutes of his first World Cup game for his country. That, needless to say, is no strange coincidence.