Cometh The Hour, Cometh De Gea
One step forward, two steps back. It's been that kind of season for Manchester United but as far as individual efforts go, not for David De Gea.
Like most players of Manchester United this season, the Spaniard has been vocal off the pitch. But unlike most, he's been vocal on it, too. Hero, hotshot. Call him what you like. Quite simply, the 23-year-old has been as magnificent as anyone has ever seen him.
'Cometh the hour, cometh the man.'
If there was ever a quote that was intended for a man born after it was said, this is it. Trials and tribulations have crossed the paths of Old Trafford most weeks in recent months, and whilst it is frustrating for the fans and staff who can't physically control the outcome of the game as they hope, a goalkeeper could be placed in that same category to an extent.
After all, they aren't able to run out and score a solo because the opponent has gone idle as the battery of the controller ran out (if you're lucky). Unfortunately, the Premier League isn't cut for that sort of easiness or luck where United are concerned. A goalkeeper's best performance can only peak with a string of impressive saves, which aren't particularly celebrated like a goal every time by energetic managers flapping their wings like a can of Red Bull could only work.
It isn't that long ago that De Gea was heavily criticised for being so frail and not cut out for the Premier League. It was a case of not now, not ever. As the Express so fondly put it at the time:
"He’s called David de Gea Quintana. But don’t bother learning all those names. There will be another chap along soon. There has to be."
The majority of Premier League spectators would have nodded in agreement during 2011, but three years on and the only surprise to that statement is that 'Champion' isn't De Gea's middle name. Much credit should be given to Eric Steele and Sir Alex Ferguson's faith in the youngster, which was merited last season as PFA's goalkeeper for Team of the Season.
It seems inevitable that he'll be getting the Fan's Player of the Year award at the end of the campaign, and whilst confidence may not be oozing collectively as a team, it is for him as an individual. As mere consolation, a place on the plane to Brazil may not be totally off the cards, especially with Victor Valdes cancelling his ticket to South America after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
With the two legged tie over Bayern Munich looking to provide a sterner test than any, De Gea will be the man between the sticks that will give United the best chance, or any chance, to progress if he remains on top of his game at Old Trafford and the Allianz. The last European giant that United faced back in March last year, Real Madrid, offered moments of brilliance from the Spaniard that gave everybody the chance to see his exact potential. Especially as the first leg in the Bernabeu showed, with his acrobatic and improvised leg save from point blank range.
If there has been a silver lining for David Moyes this season, it will have come in the form of his goalkeeper. The long term future of the Scotsman may remain to be unseen as of right now, but it's the Spaniard that the Scotsman can thank for buying him time against the Greek. And maybe the Dutchman.