De Gea’s indifferent start not only down to his so-called ‘ineptness’
They think they’re experts. They think we think we’re the experts. “He’s rubbish!” they say. And us, the good ones – we think to ourselves – are summoned by our
blind loyalty rational thinking to reply: “but he’s good … give him time.” And we repeat this until we get exhausted. “B-b-but he’s got adorable meerkat-like features! We all like meerkats!”
It’s been something like that for David de Gea. They’ve spotted a New Taibi. Taibi! Ha! Oh, what joy was Taibi! Let’s all make jokes about how Taibi could never catch a break – oops! But humour – or, arguably, lack of it – is not synonymous with reality. Let’s be clear, here; the criticism of David de Gea this season is justified. Of course, it is. He’s made mistakes. His flaws have been exposed. But the Spaniard has not been helped by negligence from the higher powers. The constant rotation of a £20million buy has beenbaffling; and nothing less.
He’s One For The Future, apparently, but that doesn’t quite explain why he’s chosen to play one game, and then not the next. If he’s going to be dropped in favour of Anders Lindegaard, then United have to make sure that the Dane is given a run of games – yet, it’s unclear that will even happen. The signs are distorted. Lindegaard might appear to be first choice now, but what’s to suggest he will he play the following week? Little. In fact, Lindegaard starting the FA Cup game against Liverpool would have been logical. Having some sort of rhythm is key to success – it has to be. Terry Venables has made two criminally out-of-tune World Cup anthems for England’s national team in recent times; yet he’s probably found more rhythm than either goalkeeper.
There’s the argument that those in management know what they’re doing. United are a well-run club and that’s never to be disputed in a general sense; but you feel this particular situation could have been handled better. This so-called “crisis” – and it isn’t that, not yet anyway – is thus partly self-inflicted. To go with that, de Gea has played 20 games with 13 different back fours; and we wonder why he hasn’t settled in yet? As it stands, his shaky start can be broken down into three: (1) partly his fault, (2) partly the club’s and (3) partly just wicked misfortune.
But this is all just theoretical. Perhaps, it doesn’t matter whether he has the same four players in front of him or not. Perhaps, the rotation policy has helped to spare his blushes – the less he plays, the better, you see. Perhaps, he’s just a bit rubbish. We all know that’s absurd, however. He’s very easy to jump at because he’s a virtual unknown to many; not all watch La Liga or care much for Atlético – and that’s fine. And he cost a lot. Nobody likes that, either. The media’s perverted fascination with Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres tells you this. And he plays for a big club. Any mistake – and there are quite a few – that talented goalkeepers such as Ali Al-Habsi or Michel Vorm make can easily be erased from memory with a wonderful point-blank range stop the minute after. De Gea does not have this luxury. Once he earns this reputation, there’s no turning back. Michael Owen, who is apparently the dirty work of a bunch of real-life Wind Up Merchants, summed it up well on his Twitter account: “The problem is, once you get labelled, mud sticks and now any tiny mistake is magnified.”
These factors have had an impact on the young ‘keeper. “He carried the body language of a player who is suffering a torrid time,” says Phil McNulty. “The sort of experience he has not had before.” And, there’s something quite sad about this. The collective laughs, jibes and sighs has quite clearly taken its toll. De Gea looks even more stricken, considerably more nervous now than he was at the beginning of the season, where, we seem to have forgotten, he played wonderfully well in chunks. His demotion – a temporary one for all we know – must have had an effect.
So, gradually, United fans are losing faith. The media men in their dark suits and sunglasses are taking glee from his mishaps: “We were right!” they bellowed, in unison, in the aftermath of Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Liverpool. They may well be. But there’s something missing in their reports. In their words, in their tweets, in their interviews. The failure to acknowledge the other factors. Managerial negligence, the overwhelming pressure that comes with the job and simple, cruel misfortune. Call it blind loyalty, but he’ll come good. Can a 20-year-old lose all his talent just like that? No, course not. I call this rational thinking.