The former Old Trafford favourite is full of praise for the Red Devils’ goalkeeper, but the ex-Atletico Madrid man has a job on his hands to be as successful as the retired Dutch stopper.
After a shaky start to life in England, David De Gea has well and truly established himself as Manchester United’s number one goalkeeper. A testament to the Spaniard’s importance at Old Trafford is the praise afforded to him by a recent United stopper, Edwin van der Sar.
In his time with the current Premier League champions, the retired Dutch goalkeeper won the English top flight four times and the club amassed a total of 11 trophies, including the Champions League, over a six-year period.
Van der Sar feels that De Gea has adapted to life in England well and is now an important member of the United team.
"It is unbelievable,” Van der Sar said. “He came from different league, he was young. He was 20 when he came.
"He came from Spain, he didn't speak the language. There is different food, different tactics, different methods of training.
"Corners and free-kicks, balls in the box - that is different to the Spanish league. It was normal he could have some troubles in the beginning.
"I think the way he turned the corner from January onwards has been a real benefit for United and one of the two or three reasons they won the league.
"His physique is better. He worked really well with (former goalkeeping coach) Eric Steele and the physical coaches and that is the way you improve.
"He is still so young but already experienced. Hopefully he will get a chance in the national team also."
De Gea’s ability has been on show since his move to Old Trafford, with some outstanding saves in his time in England; the latest a phenomenal reflex stop in the 2-1 victory over Sunderland in the side’s last outing.
The Spaniard follows in the footsteps of a plethora of world-class international goalkeepers at United, including Van der Sar, Fabien Barthez and Peter Schmeichel. De Gea certainly has the ability to become one of the best stoppers in the world, but whether he does this in Manchester or not remains to be seen.
Despite only playing in England for just over a year, the rumours linking De Gea with a return to Spain, with Barcelona and Real Madrid linked, are seemingly in the press every month. At the tender age of 22, De Gea has a substantial future ahead of him and can command the Old Trafford sticks for a long time if he chooses to.
His shot-stopping ability has never been in doubt, but the Spaniard needs to improve the command of his box to move into the same league as someone like Van der Sar. Despite this, De Gea is seemingly an apt replacement for his legendary Dutch predecessor.
image: © James Boyes