Ferguson will keep faith with De Gea

New No 1 has gone straight into the first team but early blunders have meant the gloves are off already

When plain Alex Ferguson reluctantly decided that Jim Leighton, the first goalkeeper he ever signed for Manchester United, had lost confidence after a series of errors, he dropped him for an FA Cup final replay and never picked him again.

Twenty-one years and almost as many new goalkeepers down the line, there are no indications that Sir Alex feels the same way about the most recent of them, David de Gea. But assuming the young Spaniard keeps his place at home to Tottenham tomorrow night, attention – as well as the TV cameras – will focus more closely on him than either man would like.

Appearing in front of huge crowds on tour in the United States, then in Paul Scholes's testimonial at Old Trafford and the Community Shield derby with Manchester City may have been useful in accustoming De Gea to the vast interest there is in United. But mistakes for at least one of City's goals, then another in the opening Premier League game at West Bromwich Albion last weekend heaped more pressure on those young shoulders than was desirable at such an early stage of his association with the club.

Ahead of Spurs' visit, Ferguson is trying to lift some of that pressure, claiming the 20-year-old is not concerned by the verbal or physical battering he has received. "Maybe he has read what was said, although not all players read the papers anyway," he said. "If you want the truth, read a book. He's fine, he's done his training – there's no problem."

Tottenham's manager, Harry Redknapp, is shrewd enough to have observed how unsettled De Gea became when West Bromwich went for him in the air last Sunday; a tactic for which high balls to Peter Crouch are well suited. "He coped with the crosses with no problem, he just didn't get any protection," Ferguson argued, claiming it will be different at Old Trafford. "You saw the challenges – an elbow in the face, a boy went under him and he didn't get the free-kick.

"It's disappointing when you don't get the protection but he's at home against Spurs and it won't be a problem. It's just away from home where he might get subjected to that."

De Gea was destined to leave Atletico Madrid for United even before playing a starring role for the Spanish Under-21 side that won the European Championship in the summer, earning him a place in the official team of the tournament.

Yet at 20, he is not only among the youngest of the many keepers Ferguson has signed, and by far the most expensive at £18.3m, but he is unusual in being thrust straight into the first team. That can be read either as a sign of the manager's faith in him or as a lack of confidence in his rivals,Tomasz Kuszczak, Anders Lindegaard and Ben Amos.

History shows that none of Ferguson's younger keepers have been able to establish themselves in the first team for long. Some have come close. Tim Howard, brought in from Major League Soccer as a 24-year-old, was No 1 for his first season. Roy Carroll, at a similar age, shared duties with him the following season but once Edwin van der Sar arrived from Fulham in the summer of 2005, nobody else was going to be allowed to have much of a look-in.

Ben Foster (signed at 22) and Kuszczak (25) each did well enough for other Premier League clubs in Watford and West Bromwich Albion, without convincing Ferguson they were the very highest class. Van der Sar was, and made the step up from Fulham to Champions' League level, playing his last match for the club in the Wembley final against Barcelona last May. He was the oldest keeper Ferguson has signed, at 34, and it is a source of regret to the manager that he did not secure him much earlier.

Like Schmeichel (27) and Fabien Barthez (29 and a World Cup winner) he was pretty much proven before joining, with the additional virtue of having experienced the physical nature of British goalkeeping, which appears to have taken De Gea by surprise, as it did even Schmeichel.

Ferguson recalled one uncomfortable day for the great Dane in the inhospitable surroundings of Selhurst Park, South London: "He went to Wimbledon and screamed like a pig. He had Vinnie Jones, [Alan] Cork and [John] Fashanu piling on top of him, battering lumps out of him." Schmeichel learnt from the experience and became, in the judgement of Sir Bobby Charlton and many others, United's greatest keeper.

Yet seniority is no guide to success. Consider the age and experience of three of those who followed the 30-year-old Leighton; the Spaniard Ricardo signed at the age of 30; Raimond van der Gouw (33) was never more than a deputy to Schmeichel; and Massimo Taibi (29) would be in most selections of Ferguson's Worst XI.

De Gea has far greater potential than any of that trio; yet plenty to prove as well, starting tomorrow night.

Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur is on Sky Sports 1 tomorrow, kick-off 8pm

Playing for keeps

In situ at Old Trafford in 1986:

Chris Turner, Gary Walsh, Gary Bailey

Bought by Sir Alex Ferguson:

Jim Leighton (1988-91)

Mark Bosnich (1989-91, 1999-2001)

Les Sealey (1990-91)

Peter Schmeichel (1991-99)

Tony Coton (1996)

Raimond van der Gouw (1996-2000)

Massimo Taibi (1999)

Fabien Barthez (2000-04)

Andy Goram (2001)

Roy Carroll (2001-05)

Ricardo (2002-05)

Tim Howard (2003-07)

Edwin van der Sar (2005-11)

Ben Foster (2005-10)

Tomasz Kuszczak (2007-)

Ben Amos (2008-)

Anders Lindegaard (2010-)

David de Gea (2011-)

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger Jonas Gutierrez reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
News
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable
science

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week