For the third year running we have chosen David de Gea as www.manutdtactics.com Player of the Year. This mirrors the club’s own player of the year award as selected by the fans. It was a bit of a no-brainer really considering the inconsistency across our team and amongst individual players. Other players have played well in patches and there are a number of emerging talents whose impact has begun to suggest that in time they will be able to reach a similar standard of play as De Gea, but they are young and so almost by definition inconsistent. De Gea is Mr Consistency.
Since arriving in England as a callow youth De Gea has improved steadily to the level he is now at. If he has plateaued this year then that is understandable given his level and the general form of the team. De Gea missed out on a share of the Golden Glove award for the keeper in the Premier League that has kept the most clean sheets by a single match having conceded an own goal after some sloppy play from those in front of him in the last few minutes of the last league match. That in itself tells a tale. How much better would De Gea statistics have been if he was playing behind a stronger defence. We would acknowledge that United had the joint fewest goals conceded column (just as well considering we only scored 49 league goals) but that isn’t really because of a strong defence. It is as much to do with a more defensive game plan and the use of two defensive midfield players in many matches; our defence often had a makeshift look about it.
Which brings us to a word about one of the players who for a while we considered might push De Gea close for our award; Daley Blind. At the start of the season with United failing to sign a top class centre-back many people scoffed at the idea put forward by Louis van Gaal that Daley Blind could be relied upon to play that role. Nevertheless, Van Gaal stuck with Blind as the first choice left-sided centre-back and whilst he struggled at times he grew into the role. Blind struggles for pace and with physicality and he will always struggle to some extent against forwards with these characteristics, he has improved in these areas as the season progressed. What he lacks in pace and strength he makes up for in vision, positioning and game sense. He has done very well in this role and is another big part of United’s defensive record. Like De Gea he has been consistent although perhaps not consistently at the level De Gea is at.
The other player who merited serious consideration is Anthony Martial. Martial started his United career like a house of fire with a goal against Liverpool; always a good way to start. He played well for a while and then his form dipped before he came strong again later in the season. That is fair enough because as we have previously commented youngsters are bound to be inconsistent and he is still young at only 21 years of age. Strong, quick and direct, he is also a cool finisher in front of goal. He is a real talent and will only get better. A player we are looking forward to seeing a lot of in the years ahead.
There are other good young players emerging, Borthwick-Jackson, Fosu-Mensah and of course Rashford, but in truth they have all really only provided cameo contributions to United’s season. We haven’t really considered any of them (you need to play a certain number of games to be considered for the player of the season) but all these players could if they continue to develop challenge for this award in the years ahead. As could Luke Shaw, who started the season like a house on fire before his unfortunate injury meant that it ended prematurely.
Strengths & Weaknesses
So what are De Gea’s great strengths? His most obvious is his shot stopping ability, especially in a one on one situation. He has wonderfully quick reflexes and his ability to deal with high balls into the box, his weakness when he first arrived in England, has significantly improved, even if he still punches more than one would like. As we commented last year the sign of a truly great goalkeeper is that he makes a fair percentage of saves that he really shouldn’t have any chance of making and this is a clear De Gea characteristic. A couple of times this season his positioning has let him down, (memorably at Southampton in the autumn), but his general surety is such that he does the stuff all goalkeepers should do as a matter of course with consistent reliability.
The question many have asked is whether De Gea is world class. Opinion is divided at www.manutdtactics.com on this, but if he is then he is United’s only World Class player at the moment. Is there room for improvement? There is. Firstly his communication with his defence is a weakness. He doesn’t boss around the players in front of him in the way a Schmeichel or a Van der Sar did and at times this is something that would help the defence. His distribution is also fairly prosaic; he isn’t a “sweeper-keeper” and his starting position could be much higher.
Nevertheless United would not have finished as high as they did with a lesser keeper in the side and would probably not have won an FA Cup. So David de Gea is again the www.manutdtactics.com player of the year. Felicitaciones David!
Manutdtactics.com Players of the Year
2015-16 David de Gea
2014-15 David de Gea
2013-14 David de Gea
2012-13 Michael Carrick