Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea believes his error-strewn display against Liverpool in the FA Cup has been the making of him as he gets to grips with life in England.
The Spanish keeper, who comes face to face with his countrymen for the first time as a United player when Athletic Bilbao visit Old Trafford tonight in the Europa League, had a shocker at Anfield in January when he was caught out by a routine corner, allowed Daniel Agger to nod home and was beaten too easily by Dirk Kuyt for the winner.
Despite the blunders, he played at Chelsea the following week, making some great saves in a 3-3 draw, and he believes the Anfield experience was a watershed moment. "I did receive one or two bits of criticism," he said. "It only serves to make you a stronger person, it encourages you to keep fighting. The important thing is not to let yourself get down. It could almost be a positive thing. You can turn it around and, through the hard work, I've waited for my chance and grabbed it. Fortunately I'm showing some good form, which I hope will continue to the end of the season."
De Gea also believes being dropped earlier in the season helped him: "The time I spent on the bench was when I could reflect and almost re-group. It made me more determined, so when I did get my opportunity it was important I grabbed it with both hands."
The young keeper was praised yesterday by his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, who described his form as "outstanding". "Without doubt he's grasped the nettle and done really well." As for Bilbao, Ferguson said: "It's going to be very difficult game for us. It's a game in which we need to wake up."
Ferguson added that Anderson is fit and will be "involved" tonight.