David De Gea not the first young Spanish keeper to have his troubles - look at Casillas and Valdes

The Manchester United keeper has recently received some criticism but after a much better performance against Fulham can he look at the early careers of his countrymen for inspiration?

These were the words of Wayne Rooney after the performance of David De Gea against Fulham this weekend. Rooney was on the score-sheet as United produced a less than convincing but champion worthy 1-0 victory at Craven Cottage but much of the credit went to the young Spaniard who had an excellent game in between the sticks. 

‘’David has made some great saves over the last few weeks,' the England frontman said. I know he got a little bit of criticism after the Tottenham game but it wasn't the biggest mistake I've ever seen. We're all behind him. He's a great player for the future as well.’’

After a slightly dodgy punch against Tottenham he was also partly to blame for a rather passive attempt at winning the ball from Jay Rodriguez in the fortunate victory against Southampton recently. However Michael Carrick’s inch perfect pass into the path of the pacy striker was clearly the main reason behind the goal.

Indeed ever since arriving at United De Gea has constantly been questioned about his long-term future at the club and filling the gloves of Edwin Van Der Sar was certainly never going to be an easy task. Yet these critics have recently been labelled ‘idiots’ by Sir Alex Ferguson himself but there is little stopping the De Gea exit rumour freight-train from powering through the red-tops.

Stoke City’s decision to invest in the highly rated England international Jack Butland has certainly not helped matters; with people putting two and two together to get Begovic at United.

However if we look into the past you can see that there is plenty an occasion where young Spanish keepers have struggled but become greats through the perseverance of their tutors; including internationals such as Iker Casillas and Victor Valdes.

In 2001-02 Casillas suffered a horrific dip in form and lost his place to Cesar Sanchez at Real Madrid. Then just 21-years-old he was not much younger than the current Old Trafford incumbent and his career at Madrid seemed to be going in the wrong direction. However after coming on for the injured Sanchez in the 2002 Champions League Final he displayed heroics to keep Bayer Leverkusen at bay and the rest, as they say, is history.

As for Valdes he was continuously implemented in the Barca goal; back in the days of his spiky quiff; despite numerous mistakes. However he was part of a long-term blueprint and held off the challenge of Pepe Reina, Robert Enke and Rustu Recber to become Barca’s undisputed number one for over a decade. Despite still being partial to the odd mistake he has become one of the world’s best custodians.

So should Manchester United give De Gea the same chance as his elder Spanish statesmen?

image: © James Boyes

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