David De Gea can be Man Utd’s greatest keeper – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
It’s been a while since we’ve seen a performance like that from David de Gea. To be honest, he hasn’t had much to do recently, but this exemplary display of goalkeeping was a timely reminder of his unrivaled quality.
You could even argue that was his greatest performance in a United shirt, given the magnitude of the occasion. With him in between the sticks at one end, and a rejuvenated attack at the other, these are promising times for United during the Solskjaer revolution.
The Spaniard, 28, made 11 saves as the Red Devils beat the Spurs 1-0 at Wembley. Solskjaer definitely put his critics to bed with the astonishing result, both to United and Spurs fans.
During his 11 years as a striker at Old Trafford, Solskjaer played alongside Edwin van der Sar and Peter Schmeichel.
The Great Wall of Manchester ⛔️
David De Gea’s 11 saves against Spurs is the most of any keeper in a PL game this season. ✋
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) January 13, 2019
In the post match press conference, the Norwegian manager praised David de Gea with the ultimate complement. He said:
“We’ve had some great keepers at this club and I think he’s challenging both Edwin and Peter for the number one spot historically,”
“I’ve played with a few fantastic goalkeepers. We have a tradition of having them and he has grown and grown. He deserves that man of the match today.”
The Spain international joined United from Atletico Madrid in 2011. Ever since, David de Gea has been an integral part of the Manchester United team and has won the club’s Player of the Year Award in four of the past five seasons.
On Sunday at Wembley, the Spaniard denied Spurs on 11 different occasions in the second half itself – including making superb saves to deny the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Toby Alderweireld to preserve United’s lead. He managed to secure his third Premier League clean sheet of the season.
No matter the distance or the angle, the former Atletico Madrid man was equal to everything that came his way. David de Gea even used his feet to thwart the Tottenham attackers and keep them at bay.
Match Overview – Solsjaer’s first real test as United’s interim manager
United’s win over Tottenham was a game that had everything – lots of attacking football, two excellent teams, some outstanding individuals, and a fascinating tactical battle between the managers.
The match matched some records and also broke some of them. The win in the Tottenham Vs United game also marked the first away win for the Red Devils against the Spurs since the 2011-12 season
Manchester United held on to the win at the Wembley Stadium to hand Ole Gunnar Solskjaer his sixth consecutive win as United’s Interim Manager. The sixth straight win victory sees Solskjaer confirm the best start for any manager in Manchester United’s history, and sees him equal Sir Matt Busby’s five wins in his first five league games.
It was a humdinger of a match. Harry Winks, Jesse Lingard and Rashford had goalscoring openings within the first 12 minutes, with Lingard’s far post-half volley a particularly glaring miss. Lingard’s figurehead authority was apparent as he barked instructions at Paul Pogba to pass onto Anthony Martial. It was Martial who first worked Hugo Lloris with a deflected near post drive in the 19th minute. Solskjaer earned high praise for positivity and a game plan that utilised the pace and mobility of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial rather than the physicality of Romelu Lukaku.
The standards are rising in the passing if not the defending. The linesman’s flag correctly denied Harry Kane’s conversion from a cross in the 31st minute. ‘Freer not fixed’ is maybe the mantra for Solskjaer’s United and the attacking trident was constantly in motion. Rashford and Martial switched flanks twice in the first-half alone and without the second attacking switch, Pogba would not have found Rashford with such effortless elegance.
United’s shape was the key to them controlling the game before half-time, because the way Tottenham tried to play suited how Solskjaer had set his side up. Spurs usually like to pin your wingers back by sending their full-backs up the pitch, and then they dominate midfield because they outnumber you. But Solskjaer did not let them do that on Sunday. Instead, he allowed Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier to come on to United’s full-backs and told his forwards to stay high and wide.
That gave Tottenham’s centre-halves massive problems because it left huge spaces either side of them for the pace of Rashford and Anthony Martial to exploit. In midfield, United had Jesse Lingard at the top of a diamond to put pressure on Spurs’ holding midfielder Harry Winks and stop balls into him or Christian Eriksen. As soon as United won the ball back, they always got it forward into the channels quickly because Rashford and Martial would almost always be in one-on-one situations. That is exactly how United’s goal came about.
United deserved their half-time lead, which came on 44 minutes when Lingard, perfectly positioned by Solskjær, intercepted a loose pass from Kieran Trippier. He found Paul Pogba who, in keeping with Solskjær’s philosophy, got United moving quickly. It was his sumptuous crossfield ball that released Rashford in the inside right channel and offered the latest evidence of the freedom with which the Frenchman is playing under the Norwegian.
Rashford got himself up against Jan Vertonghen, who was back after two months out with a hamstring injury, and the Spurs defender never looked like stopping the United forward, whose first touch was assured. The angle was tight but the low finish was arrowed into the far corner via Hugo Lloris’s fingertips. They needed a player with the technical ability of Paul Pogba to make the unbelievable pass that set Rashford up.
Both teams changed to a 4-2-3-1 formation in the second half, which was a far tougher period from United’s point of view – they were hanging on at times. The spaces that Rashford and Martial were enjoying before half-time were no longer there – the Tottenham full-backs were not bombing on any more because they had wingers outside them. United were dropping deeper and deeper, but although they were tiring they continued to work extremely hard and every member of their team played their part in holding out.
Tottenham did not register an attempt on target in the first-half and there were three within five minutes of the restart. Some of Spurs’ chances were gilt-edged beginning with Kane’s on 48 minutes, forged by Alli’s through-ball. Kane shot straight at De Gea. The United goalkeeper did well to keep out an Alli header which was all the more impressive since Kane was a nearby obstruction, while another from Kane was more comfortable.
He was just getting started. United had their chances at the other end. Pogba saw a header and a low shot both saved by Lloris and there was another moment when he chased his own blocked shot, brushed aside Christian Eriksen and tried to lob the Spurs goalkeeper, who made a wonderful reaction save. Spurs dug deep in the second half to show their character and quality. Sissoko’s replacement, Érik Lamela, injected bite and penetration, Trippier repeatedly got into crossing positions on the right and Dele Alli and Kane shimmered with menace. They hinted at an equaliser extensively but it would not come.
Ander Herrera impressed a lot in the match. He started out on the right of their midfield diamond but had a very different role in the second half, next to Nemanja Matic as a defensive midfielder.
A lot of his work went unseen, when he was tracking players and staying with runners, but every time he got on the ball he showed great composure and he rarely wasted a pass. Victor Lindelof stood out too, not just with his determination but with his communication and the way he organised the rest of the United defence. It was the first time he seemed to act like a real leader, and he looks like a player who has been given the confidence by his manager to be the team’s voice at the back, which is going to be massive for United going forward. As well as the outfield players performed, they would not have won the game if not for De Gea’s brilliance behind them.
With De Gea between the sticks, some shots seem to be saved before the opponent has hit it. De Gea’s one-on-one block from Alli in the 66th minute took away the breath and so did the save he made with his left foot to keep out Toby Alderweireld’s near-post flick from a corner. There was also a flying catch from a Kane free-kick and further excellent saves to deny Alli and Kane. De Gea was simply Impenetrable. It was thrillingly open, the sort of game United fans used to see on a regular basis. Thanks in large part to De Gea, they could also bask in the result.
Opta Stats :-
- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has equalled Matt Busby’s all-time record of winning his first five league games in charge of Manchester United.
- Manchester United have kept back-to-back clean sheets in the Premier League – they’d only kept two in their first 20 league matches this season.
- Marcus Rashford has scored in three consecutive Premier League games for the first time in his career.
- Paul Pogba has been directly involved in 53% of Man Utd’s 15 Premier League goals since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took charge (4 goals, 4 assists).
- David de Gea made 11 saves in this match for Man Utd – only against Arsenal in December 2017 has he ever made more in a Premier League match (14). This was the most saves he’s made in a top five European league game while also keeping a clean sheet.
Manager and Player’s Post Match Reactions –
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer:
On the Game :-
Results wise, to come away here and beat Tottenham is fantastic. We hung on in the second half and we never got to grips with it when they changed the system, but you are allowed to have a good goalkeeper. Obviously when you make 11 saves it is a top performance, but even so, two of them were top saves but the rest you would expect David to make. We defended well as a team. It was just a complete team performance.
On DDG :-
David was fantastic. Obviously when you make 11 saves that is a top, top performance but then again I thought that one or two were really good saves and then the rest of them you would expect David to save them. He should have held a couple of them! But he is the best goalkeeper in the world, I have said it many times. It is about positioning, concentration to be in the right position. Maybe one or two of them were uncatchable, but the saves he makes are because he is so in tune with the game. He is following the game, moving all the time. They don’t always look fantastic, because he is in the right position.
Audition for the job?
No, why? I know why I’m here and I know my job description is while I’m here and I’m just doing what I can.
Pogba’s was analysing the game on a screen with Jamie Redknapp, here’s what he told SkySports,
It was a big test, we needed points to carry on winning consecutively and today the team performance was the key and we have done it and we are really proud of it. Looking at the goal when he saw Rashford – It’s a great ball but we have been training on this we knew that was the weakness of Spurs they got high and we need to attack in the opp side ad that’s what we tried in training. We knew it would be difficult and that we knew we could hurt them. That’s what we worked on, they are very good with the ball they know where to go and good pattern and movement they did it for three years they knew it was the key to create changes. He makes a great run and helped me as well for the pass and I tried to give him the perfect pass.
All round game, enjoying your football?
I love playing in big games and against the best players and it was a good one for us and everyone played well and we were determined and wanted to win. The players help me and we all enjoy playing together and that’s what we did today.
What’s changed under Solskjaer?
I am enjoying playing football it was difficult with the system and tactics we used to play I like to be more attacking. I think my position there is when I feel the most comfortable. The manager told me to get in the box and get goals because I will score if I’m in the box, Frank Lampard the one who makes those runs and scores a lot so if I can do that. That helps me I know Matic will be there and we can press high, that’s what I have been doing since the manager came I know I have security there and I have the freedom to go. That’s what we want, top four, we have to keep it up, the season is still on and we want to get back to the top which is where we belong.
De Gea and Rashford:
Rashford: Most difficult we have had (under Solskjaer), hardest we had to work for result we put in a lot of work. We go home and prepare for the next game.
DDG: Yeah, especially because we won against a top team and we deserved to win we controlled the first half the second they had chances but we defended well and have three points. I was feeling very well with first two saves but a great game for us and to get three points at Wembley and so we are happy.
What was your favourite save, do you have one?
DDG: No I don’t remember some of them so I’m happy.
Rashford: Near post in the corner, that’s my fave. We played a slightly different system but against a team like this it was needed the other teams played same system we played different and the tactics changed but that’s what we need to do adapt. I think it’s good to have responsibility but since this manager every one chipped in, the amount of saves he made was tremendous but we know that we have him at the back.
DDG: He brings some happiness and the players are playing well, we are strong now and we know how to control the games and create chances and this is the real Manchester United.
United in Dreamland –
Having taken over with United 11 points behind the top four Solskjaer now has them within six points and level with Arsenal in fifth. It’s not just the closing of that gap that has transformed the mood around United though. It’s the way the caretaker manager has done it.
When the Norwegian was handed the keys to Old Trafford on a temporary basis the first aim seemed to be restore smiles to faces, both within the club and in the stands. Consider that achievement ticked off.
In stylistic terms this is the best United have been in a while. Solskjaer learned at the altar of Sir Alex Ferguson and is still leaning on him for advice and the Scot’s ideals are clear to see in the way the former United striker has set his team up, prioritising pace in the final third and looking for rapid transitions. Fans are right to get carried away, it’s the privilege of being a fan.
United fans are excited by what they’re seeing under Solskjaer and the Norwegian has given them all that they wanted. Priority is a top four finish in the Premier League and they are getting very close to achieving that with marvelous results, the FA Cup also awaits and anything can happen in Europe. The players are confident, enjoying themselves and are giving everything they got.
Manchester United are dreaming again.
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More tricky and dangerous games await United as the season advances like the one against Arsenal in the FA Cup or the Champions League fixtures against PSG. However, Solskjaer may have proved his credentials to the top officials at United with this victory.
The Norwegian has undoubtedly passed his first big test as the manager for the Red Devils. Moreover, we might be able to see the real David de Gea, whom we have dearly missed. The Spaniard might have given Solskjaer the needed boost to secure the permanent job at United.