World Class: David De Gea’s five best ever saves

As an American football (soccer) fan, there are few highs and quite a few lows. However, at the 2014 World Cup, we somehow got both. In the round of 16 match against Belgium, Tim Howard set the tournament record with fifteen saves in a contest the USA would ultimately lose 2-1. Howard’s performance was breathtaking, but soon came the all too familiar feeling of disappointment.

This past weekend, David De Gea, Manchester United’s goalkeeper, put in similarly impressive performance. Saving fourteen shots against Arsenal, but unlike the loveable losers wearing Stars and Stripes, United came out on top 3-1.

De Gea’s incredible performance had me thinking; what are the Spaniards five best ever saves?

5. Crystal Palace – Glenn Murray

There are saves that look incredible in real time and there are saves that look amazing when slowed down, find yourself a save that can do both.

Following a set piece, Scott Dann cuts across the box and plays a beautiful reverse ball towards Palace striker Glenn Murray. A good first touch takes him one on one and his shot is to the left of United’s goalkeeper. De Gea, who began closing Murray down, sticks out both hands and he somehow manages to save it.

When you watch this save in real time, the most incredible part is how the ball dies once it touches De Gea’s fingertips. Then you see it in slow motion and realize that he didn’t know where it was and had very little forward momentum. This save is a testament to De Gea’s positioning, making himself as big as possible, and the strength of his hands.

There is an element of luck in this save, but the best keepers create their own luck. The strength of De Gea’s wrist and the intelligence to close down Murray quickly are a result of his incredible work since joining United in 2011.

4. Liverpool – Mario Balotelli

I knew I had to include a save against Liverpool. Not just because they’re fierce rivals, but because De Gea’s catalog of amazing saves includes more than one stunner against the Reds. His reflex saves against Glenn Johnson, his one-v-one dominance against Raheem Sterling, and an acrobatic save from a Phillipe Coutinho curler were all in consideration. Ultimately, his shock save from a Mario Balotelli strike stands out the most.

The Italian had joined Liverpool in the summer in a surprise move but was struggling. Coming on as a sub in a close match, it appeared, for a split second, that Balotelli was going to score and open his account for Liverpool. Sterling, who De Gea had already denied three times, got the ball in the box and played a clever ball to a wide-open Balotelli. Hitting it first time, Balotelli used the pace of the ball and directed it on goal from a few yards out. Falling to his right, the Spaniard manages to get his fingertips on the ball and deflects the shot onto the crossbar.

It was a truly sublime save that he had no business making.

3. Chelsea – Juan Mata

Speaking of teams De Gea owns, there were quite a few saves against Chelsea to choose from. If you want to make the case for De Gea being best in the world, his greatest saves are often against the best teams. He is a big game player and this was a big-time save.

United fans love Juan Mata, so it may be slightly painful to watch this save repeatedly. However, Mata is wearing the blue of Chelsea, gross, and the save is that damn good.

The shot comes from a classic Mata free kick that he curls towards the top corner and away from the goalkeeper. He hits it inch perfect and when I say top corner, I mean TOP CORNER. It is hard to place a freekick much better than this. When the ball is struck, De Gea reads Mata’s positioning and cheats in the direction the ball will go. He then leaps and somehow manages to reach his hand into the furthest part of the goal and deflect the shot for a corner.

Want to know how good the shot is? Look at how Mata reacts. Right after he hits it he thinks it is in. He then covers his head in disbelief when it is kept out. Now a member of United, he has come to appreciate the brilliance of his fellow Spaniard.

2. Watford – Chris Smalling

There are reflex saves and then there are reFlex saves. This, my friends, is a reflex save.

After a poor clearance by Smalling finds the feet of a Watford player in the box, the English defender attempts to make up for his mistake by heading the subsequent shot wide of goal. Instead, the shot redirects perfectly into Watford’s corner. But fear not Mike Smalling, your goalkeeper isn’t human. Looking destined for an own goal, De Gea throws himself to the round and tips the ball wide of the goal.

I honestly don’t know how he sees this in time to react, much less save it. His ability to get to the ground and find the ball defies physics. If you haven’t seen this save, do yourself a favor and check it out.

1. Everton – Brian Oviedo

In a season where he would establish himself as the premier shot-stopper in the world, this was De Gea’s goalkeeping masterpiece. From his brilliant penalty save in the first half to his gravity-defying denial against Leon Osman in the second, De Gea was otherworldly.

But no save better demonstrates his attributes than this.

With United desperately hanging on to a 2-1 lead, Everton was piling on the pressure. A free kick is whipped into the box by Leighton Baines and a scramble ensues. The ball falls to Gareth Barry who strikes it against a United defender. However, De Gea dives thinking the ball might find its way on target. Before he can fully gather himself, Brian Oviedo unleashes a volley that looks destined for the back of the net. De Gea somehow manages to leap and tip the shot over the bar.

David De Gea has transformed from a scrawny kid who couldn’t gather a cross, to a genuine match winner for United. His save against Everton is worthy of settling any contest and demonstrates just how far he has come.

Written by Ben Soleim


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