Tuesday 20 March 2018

Alan Hansen: De Gea's high ball anxiety could see title slipping away

Alan Hansen

Manchester United's hopes of regaining the Premier League title will always be in jeopardy if David de Gea keeps making mistakes like the one against Spurs and he must surely be on his last chance now.

Without a doubt he cost them yesterday and this is a crucial stage of the season where Alex Ferguson needs to decide whether to stick with him or take him out the firing line.

The result at White Hart Lane could prove a season-defining moment and United cannot afford to be drawing games when they should be winning them.

I'm sure they would have taken a point before kick-off but the fact they've tossed away two points in the game through a goalkeeping mistake could be massive.

United would have been seven points clear of Manchester City if they had managed to keep a clean sheet but the goalkeeper has flapped at the end and it's punished them after a very good away performance. A win at Spurs could have sent out a real message.

Ferguson will be loath to drop him but he has got to make a decision now because this is crunch time and they are playing for big prizes. When your team is in the last 16 of the Champions League and competing for the title the last position you want to be chopping and changing is the goalkeeper.

It's not like a centre-forward where you can take them out and rest them for a few games to keep them fresh, a goalkeeper is a position where you've got to have that continuity.

De Gea is only 22 and there is no doubt that he made two or three great saves against Spurs. He's an excellent shot-stopper but he has that weakness coming for the ball and it is always going to end up costing them.

It can't be allowed to continue because other teams are going to play on it. They will set up their approach to games to target the goalkeeper because De Gea undoubtedly has a frailty and a weakness when the ball is in the air and it's been proven time and time again.

If United were playing against a goalkeeper who Ferguson knew was susceptible in the air he'd be telling his players to show no mercy. Other teams will be doing exactly the same against United when De Gea is in the team.

I was actually surprised Spurs didn't target him more throughout the game. There were not that many aerial balls into the area to test him. They had players like Jermain Defoe, Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon, Mousa Dembele, Scott Parker, and then Tom Huddlestone when he came on, all trying to beat the goalkeeper from 30 yards, when the best way to test him is to get it out wide and then put it high into the area.

The first time they did that was in injury-time and look what happened – the 'keeper came out, completely made a mess of it and Spurs equalised. Quite simply, when the ball is in the air in the penalty area and he has to come for it, he struggles. It is a big weakness.

I think he'll get one more game to come back from this and prove himself.

But if he makes one more mistake that costs them like that Ferguson has got no alternative but to take him out and bring back Anders Lindegaard.

Not only did De Gea's mistake cost his team two points, it also detracted from what I thought was a defensive masterclass from Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Michael Carrick and Phil Jones were also excellent but the two centre-halves were absolutely magnificent.

It was only the second time this season they've played back-to-back games and they proved there is no substitute for experience. By not having them together last year it ultimately cost them the title and you can just see the difference they have made to the team over the last two games.

Any aspiring centre-half should get a DVD of the Spurs game and watch the way those two played. You would not fail to learn the basics of defending, getting into the right positions and reading the game.

They have such a good understanding and when Vidic steps left, Ferdinand will step right. United's goal was excellent but the Spurs back four were simply pulled apart for it. In an identical situation for Spurs they just couldn't find a way past Ferdinand and Vidic.

It will be difficult to keep them playing together all season but the more Ferguson can do it, the better United's chances of winning the title will be.

They deserved to come off the pitch with three points – but the reason they didn't is because of the goalkeeper, and it's something United have got to deal with or it could end up costing them. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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