Sir Alex Ferguson on why he signed David De Gea and not Manuel Neuer

Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has given some insight into why David De Gea and not Manuel Neuer was signed by the Old Trafford club to replace the retiring Edwin van der Sar, who had been the real replacement to Peter Schmeichel, despite six years passing for the club in-between the two playing for the club. Eric Steele, United’s former goalkeeping coach he left the club when David Moyes took over as United manager, was the real reason why the legendary Scottish manager opted for the Spaniard over the talented German. Sir Alex reflects on the time he was looking at Neuer, who he described mature with an unbelievable physique, but Steel insisted that De Gea was going to be much better than him in three years time. The Manchester Evening News reported Ferguson’s comments, which read:

“Eric Steele had been scouting David de Gea for quite a while, but then Neuer came on the scene at Schalke. And I think Schalke would’ve been happy if we’d have gone and taken him.

“So my problem was Eric, because he was adamant that we must take De Gea. I said ‘but Eric, the boy Neuer is the complete unit; he’s mature, his physique is unbelievable’, and he says ‘yeah, but in three years’ time, De Gea will be better’.

“I said ‘that’s a statement’.

“Eric and I went out to watch him (De Gea) against Valencia away, and the things he’d been speaking about – his agility, his confidence, his speed – were evident.

“And Eric had been building a relationship with his parents, and was so adamant, that I had to trust him – and I’m glad I did, because he was right.”

United signed De Gea in the summer of 2011, spending around £18.9 million on the then 20-year-old, who struggled to adapt to English football, with many supporters labelling him as a rubbish goalkeeper, one who would set the club aback by a few years. That all changed pretty quickly, though, football is a fickle game, especially for supporters, who think they know it all and find out they have plenty to learn. David De Gea soon found his feet and instead of being criticised by the British media, he was praised, something that seems to have changed in a match away to Tottenham Hotspur, where he conceded a late goal which stopped United from winning the match but showed that De Gea had improved massively. Then came a match away to Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League, a team De Gea had faced many times before. Danny Welbeck scored United’s goal, with former Red Devils Cristiano Ronaldo scoring for the home side. De Gea did well to thwart the Madrid side many times, who eventually knocked United out at Old Trafford. De Gea from there was a lot more developed as a player than the player who arrived at the club not that long before.

Manuel Neuer, at the time, was the better goalkeeper, one which was won the Bundesliga many time, the UEFA Champions League and, of course, the FIFA World Cup in 2014, but De Gea is a player who has continuously improved for Manchester United since his very fraught first season with the club. De Gea has been subject to much speculation about a move to Real Madrid, which failed at the last minute last summer, but looks set for another summer of speculation. It shows that the Spaniard has something special, something that many top teams would like to add to their squads. Whether Madrid eventually gain the Spanish goalkeeper is something we are yet to experience, but with Manchester United currently having one of the best goalkeepers in world football in their squad, a player who has been named Manchester United Player of the Season, for the last two season’s and probably this one too, Madrid’s gain would certainly be a huge loss for Manchester United, but at the time being, we should continue to celebrate the goalkeeper we have, should it not have been for Eric Steele, United may never have had him at all.


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