Sport Soccer

Thursday 22 February 2018

De Gea: We are heading in the right direction

United goalkeeper happy with form as he targets cup glory, writes Simon Stone

Manchester United's Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea
Manchester United's Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea

Simon Stone

Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea is delighted with his form so far this season.

With Robin van Persie struggling to overcome a thigh problem and Wayne Rooney mixing an outstanding contribution to United's difficult campaign with a number of injury-enforced absences, De Gea has arguably been the most consistent performer in David Moyes's debut campaign as Red Devils manager.

Not bad for the 23-year-old rated no better than fifth choice for his country and with little chance of breaking into the Spain squad that will defend the World Cup in Brazil this summer.

There has not even been concerns raised over De Gea's ability to handle the physical side of the English game, aired so forcefully during the former Atletico Madrid man's first two seasons in the Premier League.

"I am pleased with my contribution so far," says De Gea. "I feel very settled here and I am happy with the way I am playing. I am still learning and improving all the time. That is important. I hope to carry on doing that and keep my spot in the team."

By his own admission, De Gea undergoes a character change when he goes out to play. Laid-back off the pitch, he is fully focused off it.

And while he still prefers to communicate in his native tongue -- certainly with the media -- De Gea has learned to get his point across.

"It is important to be honest. Off the pitch I like to be friendly and enjoy people's company but when I am on the pitch I am a lot more focused and concentrate totally on the game."

Until the New Year's Day home defeat by Tottenham, De Gea seemed to be getting in tune with his defenders. The loss has halted United's momentum to an extent, although De Gea feels there are enough encouraging signs for the club to be optimistic for the future.

"We have picked up plenty of momentum as the season has developed," he said. "It was a real shame we couldn't get three points against Tottenham but we are playing well now. We need to keep performing and win as many games as we possibly can."

Nevertheless, it seems improbable that United can retain their Premier League title, with a top-four berth the only realistic hope.

It places more emphasis on the cup competitions. And as a relative newcomer to Old Trafford, De Gea is among the vast majority at United never to even play in an FA Cup final, let alone actually win the competition.

Alex Ferguson never wasted an opportunity to underline the importance of a tournament United have won more often than anyone else. And with home advantage in today's third-round tie with Swansea, De Gea sees no reason why they should not progress.

"The FA Cup is a competition with a lot of history. There is a lot of romance associated with it and it would be terrific to win it. Being at home is a boost because we will have so many fans behind us. Still, Swansea are a tough side and it will be a complicated game for us."

Manchester Utd v Swansea

Live, BT Sport 1, 4.30

Irish Independent

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