ALEX Ferguson hailed Anders Lindegaard's performance in Manchester United's Champions League draw with Benfica last night – but promised David de Gea will return for Sunday's Premier League showdown with Chelsea.
Hesitant performances in the Community Shield and the opening league encounter at West Brom forced Ferguson to shield De Gea from criticism. At just 20, the former Atletico Madrid star was always going to need time to acclimatise to the English game, but his £18million price tag demanded instant perfection.
Improvement has come already, with an outstanding performance at Bolton last Saturday coming when it had been rumoured De Gea would be left out. And Ferguson will have no hesitation in bringing De Gea back this weekend regardless of how well Lindegaard did.
“We have two great goalkeepers,” Ferguson said. “We were always going to share it and David will play on Sunday against Chelsea and possibly Anders will play at Leeds next Tuesday, depending upon how we see the situation with Ben Amos, who needs some game-time also.
“There are opportunities to spread the load. The English league is so frenetic. Coming into that, as a young goalkeeper, there will be times when we can give him (De Gea) a break. Tonight was a good moment because he had a fantastic game on Saturday.”
Ferguson is clearly sensitive to criticism of De Gea though, judging by the way he responded to\[Ian Winterton\] ITV post-match TV interviewer Kelly Cates when she asked whether Lindegaard had given him a selection dilemma.
“I don't know why you ask
these questions, you're just looking for stupid little things,” Ferguson snapped, re-opening a feud with the Dalglish family that dates back to the very early days of his near 25-year reign at United when Liverpool, under Cates' father Kenny, were top dogs. It overshadowed yet another telling contribution from Ryan Giggs, who set the record for scoring in the most Champions League campaigns – 16 – 17 years to the day since he scored the first two of his 27 goals in the competition against FC Gothenburg.
“It was a great goal,” Ferguson said of Giggs's equaliser. I felt in the early parts of the match he sat too deep in midfield.
“Once he got behind their central midfield he was a real threat. His goal came because of that. It was terrific.”
Ferguson also confirmed he expects Danny Welbeck to return within a fortnight, which could put him in line for a return to England duty ahead of their Euro 2012 qualifier in Montenegro.
That adds more pressure on record signing Dimitar Berbatov, who has still only featured once this season after failing to make it off the bench. “It is hard because of the number of strikers we have,” Ferguson added. “Michael Owen is there, Federico Macheda, Mame Biram Diouf. Danny Welbeck won't be back next week but probably the week after. It is not easy.
“Dimitar has been training terrific. His attitude is spot on. He will get his game time as the season wears on. There is no question about that.” After all the talk of youngsters at Old Trafford in recent weeks, United needed an intervention from old stager Ryan Giggs to grab a point. Trailing to Oscar Cardozo's impressive strike and outplayed for long periods, United were thankful for Giggs' rescue job, 17 years to the day since his first.
The Welshman has now scored in 16 seasons of the competition, another record.