Carrick: De Gea has big future

REFILE - CORRECTING SPELLING OF STADIUM Manchester United's goalkeeper David de Gea celebrates his team's goal against Real Madrid during the Champions League soccer match at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid February 13, 2013. REUTERS/Susana Vera (SPAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)

Simon Stone

MICHAEL CARRICK believes David de Gea showed his true character in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of a Champions League examination at the Bernabeu.

As Manchester United left Madrid yesterday following their draw with Jose Mourinho's Real feeling it could have been even better, they were also aware had it not been for De Gea, they could well have been out of the tie.

From his brilliant five-minute save to tip Fabio Coentrao's curling shot on to a post, to the unorthodox manner in which he kept the full-back out deep in the second half, De Gea was outstanding.

It was not perfect, he missed a couple of crosses for a start.

But given the criticism that has been heaped on the 22-year-old virtually since his arrival at Old Trafford for a hefty £18million at the beginning of last season, it was a fine effort from De Gea, and one which suggests his United career has been written off a bit too soon.

"There is no bigger pressure cooker really than this stage of the Champions League and coming to a place like the Bernabeu," said Carrick.

"He was coming back home as well, so there was an extra spotlight on him. Some of his saves kept us in the game at times. It just showed what he is all about."

In theory, De Gea has been shielded from some of the sharper observations about his lack of physicality and unsuitability for the English game because he does not speak the language.

As if to prove the point, he answered questions in the pre-match press conference in his native tongue.

Yet, apparently, he does have a grasp of English, enough to be hurt by the comments made about him.

Carrick has endured similar brick-bats at times. His advice is to take no notice.

"It is never nice when people question you but that is natural at a club like Manchester United," he said.

"You are always getting questioned and criticised. That is just how it is.

"That is fine. You have to deal with it.


"He is a top keeper and he is only going to get better. To play at this club at such a young age and have so much on your shoulders, says enough on its own."

It hardly needs saying that United, for all the satisfaction they can take from last night's performance, can take nothing for granted.

Old-boy Cristiano Ronaldo might have been reflecting on one of his less productive nights when he bobbed into the visitors' dressing room for a post-match reunion but he still scored with a header reminiscent of Denis Law in his prime, belted the rebound to a free-kick inches wide and sent a 40-yard effort whistling on to the roof of De Gea's net. In addition, Mesut Ozil was a threat, with Coentrao a useful attacking weapon too.

It is clear United need to be wary, and Carrick is reading nothing into the fact Real face Barcelona twice before the return leg on March 5 whilst his own side have relatively straightforward assignments as they aim to defend an imposing 12-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

"I am not sure we have won the league yet," said Carrick. "There is a long way to go in that respect.

"The second leg is a one-off game. Who is playing who beforehand doesn't count for much. They have their schedule and we have ours."

The onus will be on Alex Ferguson to get his team selection right.

United did not get Wayne Rooney into the game enough, and the same could also be said of Robin van Persie, even though the Dutchman had a golden opportunity to score a second for the visitors, only to strangely mis-hit his volley.

Of the more significant selections, Shinji Kagawa did not have the impact intended. But Jonny Evans was excellent alongside Rio Ferdinand and Welbeck, despite scoring just once this season prior to Wednesday's game, was superb, putting United in front when he got the better of Sergio Ramos, and diligently plugging the gaps in midfield Real were so desperate to exploit.

"Danny was magnificent," said Carrick. "He has all the attributes to be a top player but probably doesn't get the credit he deserves."

That may be because his scoring record at United is not the best, even though he was England's top scorer in 2012.

"If the team is winning, who is scoring is not such an issue.

"As a Manchester lad, he loves the place. He is genuine and gives everything.


"He worked so hard again and I am delighted for him."

With a three-week gap to the return leg on March 5, United can now afford to switch their attentions back to domestic matters.

However, the fall-out from Wednesday's absorbing encounter in the Bernabeu is sure to affect his team selection for Monday's FA Cup fifth-round tie with Reading.

Having stuck his neck out to select Welbeck, Ferguson knows he was upsetting Hernandez, who remained on the bench throughout.

And, as Welbeck was forced out of the Real contest early after suffering from cramp, it is a fair bet Hernandez will start against Brian McDermott's improving outfit.

"I explained to Javier that Robin van Persie is our main striker and that we want someone to join in from a deeper position," said Ferguson.

"But whenever Javier plays, he delivers. He has 14 goals already, will get ample opportunity and will score more than 20."