For the second season running we have selected David de Gea as our www.manutdtactics.com player of the year. In truth it was a fairly straightforward choice as his form has stood head and shoulders above all other contenders. Whilst other players have played well in patches, De Gea’s form has been consistently high throughout the season. He is perhaps the only United player right now who can genuinely be considered to be World Class.
Before we move on to discuss De Gea’s contribution, let us highlight a number of other players whose claims we did not instantly dismiss.
Three players stand out as having significantly improved their performances through the season. If we had an award for most improved player, together they would form a shortlist for consideration. Chris Smalling, Marouane Fellaini and Ashley Young have not only improved on last season’s performance levels, but each has also made gradual improvements through the season.
A former winner, Michael Carrick has made a significant contribution, but whilst his is a significant role in Van Gaal’s strategies he has suffered with injury and therefore not played enough games to merit serious consideration. Another established player, Wayne Rooney was also considered and as both captain and player his role has been important too, not least in a period where the squad has seen so many players arriving and departing, but he has perhaps suffered from being played as a midfield player rather than as a forward where he could best utilise his skills. Rooney is a player who could be considered World Class in the past and whilst he is perhaps not at that level now, his contribution this season has gone up a notch on recent years.
Of the newcomers, Ander Herrera seems the most popular with fans, but that may be because we now have a lively and dynamic midfield player, which is something we have lacked for a while. Van Gaal has made reference to his own early season concerns about aspects of Herrera’s play and he was right to do so, although many fans seemed blind to the gaps he left which the opposition regularly attacked. Herrera is another player who has improved over the course of the season under Van Gaal’s tutelage and as he has adjusted to life in the Premier League. We see no reason why he cannot continue to improve in the years ahead. Like Carrick, Herrera has not played enough games to merit serious consideration.
So the winner is David de Gea. It is a sadness that he appears to want to leave the club this summer but you cannot blame him as he is effectively living and working away from home and being courted by his home town club. Who wouldn’t move back home to do the same job if they could?
Over the last four years we have had the pleasure of watching De Gea grow and develop as a player from a string bean-like youth to a dependable solid goalkeeping presence. He was always fairly strong, but his thin appearance suggested brittleness. Actually he was wiry and strong but has worked in the gym on developing his physique. Elements of his character have stood him in good stead as he has developed; his determination and bravery. Early in his career in England, opponents tried to test this and we remember one particular game at West Ham United when Andy Carroll effectively body checked De Gea with a challenge which was little less than an assault. De Gea just took it and got on with his game.
As fans (and this applies to supporters of all clubs) we tend to over-estimate the quality of our own players. There are plenty of United fans right now who are talking about De Gea as the best keeper in the world. As previously stated, he is World Class and Peter Schmeichel, who knows a thing or two about goalkeeping, recently suggested he is amongst the top five or six keepers in the world, but we should be reasonable and measured in our appraisal of De Gea’s qualities.
Let’s start with his three greatest strengths. De Gea is a great shot stopper. He is a good footballer who is more than comfortable with the ball at his feet. His greatest strength is that he is excellent in one on one situations and at blocking close range shots. There are lots of examples of this but perhaps the home game against Liverpool stands out most as an example where he continually repelled a series of Liverpool shots in one on ones. He has had to be good at this and (to be balanced!) we have to point out that over the last couple of years United’s defence has given him plenty of opportunities to practice these skills.
There are still areas where De Gea can improve and we should not be blind to those. His communication and long range distribution are weaknesses, as is his positioning during general play. He still punches when he might catch instead, although he has improved on this aspect of his game during his time at the club. But his strengths significantly outweigh his weaknesses and as Louis van Gaal stated when he presented the club’s own player of the year award (as voted by the fans) he is someone who has improved during the season and no doubt will continue to improve in the years ahead.
So we make David de Gea the www.manutdtactics.com player of the season. Whether he stays or goes this summer, it has been a pleasure watching him play for our club.
Manutdtactics.com Players of the Year
2014-15 David de Gea
2013-14 David de Gea
2012-13 Michael Carrick