Did Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea come of age against Real Madrid?

United keeper has been hit and miss this season but his coach tells Ian Herbert the club are confident he has a bright future at Old Trafford

David de Gea's big disappointment came before his day of reckoning with Real Madrid dawned. The Madrileno had hoped to be asked a good number of questions at Tuesday night's pre-match press conference and so show off, in the depths of the Bernabeu, his English language skills which are gradually advancing. "He was ready to answer some in English," his Manchester United goalkeeping coach Eric Steele revealed. "He works with a very good professor twice a week but he only got two questions, so that was disappointing. When he arrived in England he needed to learn the football terminology first. He's doing very well."

De Gea's display in the 1-1 draw in the Bernabeu on Wednesday night left little doubt that he has the sangfroid required to make his acclimatisation to England more than a linguistic one. No one should pretend that the doubts about him are assuaged because of a performance which confirmed him both as an immeasurably fine stop-shotter – the best Steele says he has worked with – but also as one who generally flounders with a cross or two. With his popstar girlfriend Edurne Garcia Almagro, continuing to live in the warmth of Madrid, Barcelona and Real are monitoring him as much as United will observe the intentions of Victor Valdes, who wont re-sign at the Nou Camp, and Iker Casillas.

But De Gea needed a big display on a big occasion to provide a catalyst for a United career which he seemed to be losing a grip of after his surrender of a high ball at White Hart Lance last month threw away two points with it. You would expect Steele to defend his man, but he said that there is an inner fortitude which football overlooks in the boyish goalkeeper who wears a perennially anxious look.

"One of the great strengths he has got is a calmness," Steele said. "We teach him that the calmest man of the field has to be the goalkeeper. And the one thing he has got is a fantastic inner strength. Any criticism literally goes off that quiff he has – cresta cabeza ['quiff head'] we call him. He's able to say, 'Right, fine'. If he is hurt he doesn't show it.

"He might have dark moments but I think he keeps them away from the training ground and away from when he is preparing for games. He has got his family close to him. He doesn't read the press. But all the other mediums are there which he knows about. He knew the change was going to be difficult. You bring a boy into the Premier League at 19 it's not easy. But he's 22 and has played in about 170 first-team games now. He's not inexperienced but what he isn't experienced at his dealing with the varied performances you need in the Premier League."

De Gea's distribution is the other secret of his game which is overlooked in the rather unsophisticated way we view goalkeepers in Britain, Steele said. "He is following Edwin [van de Sar] in that respect." Composure and distribution: these are precisely the two qualities that Sir Alex Ferguson spoke about in De Gea when he had first signed him from Atletico Madrid, in the pre-season tour nearly two years ago in which he admitted that letting Petr Cech pass him by had always haunted him. "He's young, he's quick, he has fantastic presence and composure. His use of the ball is outstanding so all of these are things that don't go away," Ferguson said back then, in the United States.

The shot-stopping has become a given, though even that can be undervalued at times. "That's the one," Steele said, when the subject of the keeper's early tipped stop from Madrid's Fabio Coentrao cropped up. "If we go 1-0 down to Real Madrid after five minutes at the Bernabeu, that makes things a lot harder. He saw it very late, one of the boys might have been offside in front of him but he got his finger to it. Some may have had the anticipation, he had the speed of the first-step movement and the great long reach he has and got enough on it. That is how thin the dividing line is with goalkeepers. That's why you can be a hero one minute and zero the next."

The demands from United players that De Gea be given the chance to build on what he delivered in the Bernabeu illustrates the collective will behind him in the squad. Steele stopped short of saying this is a coming-of-age performance for the keeper. But he believes it might be one.

"Trust me, if you've worked with him day by day then you'd see he's very mature for his age and will only get better," Steele said. "Yes, of course he has had to learn. He's still growing physically. He'll get stronger physically and as he does it will help him in his game."

'Heroics needed': Spanish reaction

AS: "Heroics needed at Old Trafford"

"Never write off the red devil on the United crest. Don't ever rule out this legendary team, or the ghosts that breathe life into them.

"There were complaints about the referee, but even those were tempered. The battle will continue at Old Trafford, where Mourinho's team will need to hold onto the crown on their badges and their history, as well as their faith in the counter-attack."

Marca: "It's in the air"

"In what was his most special match since he landed at Real Madrid, Cristiano [Ronaldo] did not take his eye off the ball.

"The Portuguese held himself in the air for several seconds, Michael Jordan-style to level a tie that was threatening to drift away."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape