Sir Alex Ferguson claims Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea is over the 'wobbles' that have dogged his career in English football as he prepares to face Real Madrid in the Bernabeu.
De Gea, an £18.3million signing from Atletico Madrid in May 2011, returns to the Spanish capital for the first time tonight to face Real in the Champions League.
The 22-year-old faces an uncertain future at Old Trafford with Ferguson pondering a summer move for Stoke's Asmir Begovic. But having gambled on De Gea's potential when signing him as a replacement for Edwin van der Sar, Ferguson insists the Spain Under-21 goalkeeper has now overcome his growing pains at United.
"Obviously, the boy has shown his character because he's taken a lot of criticism and sometimes unfair criticism," Ferguson said. "But what we are good at doing at this club is developing people, both as players and as characters. David came as a young goalkeeper, one who was not used to the English game, and he couldn't speak the language.
"He also had to mature physically, but young kids have wobbles, they get up, wobble again, get up and then walk, and the boy is walking now."
De Gea's inability to adjust to the more physical demands of English football have raised question marks over his long-term prospects at Old Trafford. But the Spaniard claims that he has emerged from his troubles as a better goalkeeper.
"When you arrive at a new club and different league, it's normal to have low points," De Gea said. "But it's important to learn from those bad moments and I feel I am a better keeper now than when I arrived."
During his time at Atletico, De Gea conceded eight goals in just three games against Real at the Bernabeu.
His most difficult challenge tonight will be trying to prevent Cristiano Ronaldo from improving his tally of 182 goals in 179 games for Real and the goalkeeper admits the former United forward poses the biggest threat to his goal. "I think everyone knows how hard Ronaldo can hit it and how well he can play," De Gea said. "It is very hard to defend his shots, but we are here to do this.
"I will do all in my power to stop him. He is unique, nobody hits the ball so hard, but we will do all in our power to stop him."
United are expected to be backed by more than 4,000 supporters inside the Bernabeu, with the same number believed to have travelled to Madrid without tickets.
As a result, Spanish police are planning to patrol Madrid's Barajas Airport throughout the day in order to identify ticketless supporters before they arrive in the city.
By Mark Ogden in Madrid, Telegraph.co.uk