Could media pressure help make David De Gea into a great player?

The Manchester United goalkeeper has faced heavy scrutiny ever since his inauspicious debut against Manchester United in the Community Shield in 2011, but will the pressure end up helping his development?

They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and there is certainly a history of football players and managers coming through press barrackings to become better at their job.

Sometimes, of course, the pressure ends up too much for the individual and they break under the weight of it all. On rare occasions, both can even happen to the same person, with Andre Villas-Boas eventually sacked at Chelsea under intense media focus, before coming through a similar level of attention during his start at Spurs.

How you are perceived by the media - either for better or for worse - can be hard to change. Pepe Reina has had to spend the best part of two years making almost continuous blunders to stop being considered one of the best keepers in the world, and naturally it can be similarly hard to shake off the tag of being a dodgy goalkeeper.

If, therefore, David De Gea can get through the next year or so at Manchester United unscathed, the amount of scrutiny he will have faced down will surely mark him out as a player able to become a great at Old Trafford.

In some ways, the media focus could accelerate his development. As a keeper, De Gea has all the physical required to be world class, with a shot stopping ability that is second to very few, if any, in the league. What is yet to be perfected is the mental side of the game, and at times a lack of confidence in dealing with the ball has led to errors on the Spaniard's part.

The press attention on his every move will likely have contributed to this lack of confidence in the short term, but in the long term it might aid his progress.

Right now the pressure is perhaps as heavy as it will ever get, but if he continues to deliver performances like he did against Fulham last weekend, then there's only so long the media will stay interested in waiting for a mistake. Come through this, and De Gea will have demonstrated to everyone, including himself, that he is up to the task.

image: © James Boyes

Register for MANCHESTER UNITED team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch