Sunday 18 February 2018

Schmeichel refuses to blame De Gea

Simon Stone

PETER Schmeichel believes Manchester United's early season defensive injury crisis was the main culprit for Tottenham's injury-time equaliser last weekend.

Gary Neville's condemnation of David de Gea's weak punch was seized on by former Sky Sports presenter Richard Keys, who claimed he felt the former Manchester United defender had been asked to "nail" the young Spain star.

Neville has denied the allegation, whilst standing by his assessment, even if he views De Gea as, potentially, a top-class goalkeeper.

Schmeichel has defended De Gea, insisting that, without him, United would have lost by a bigger margin.

And, speaking to launch 'Dancing with United' on behalf of the Manchester United Foundation, he feels it is a defensive issue that needs to be addressed.

"It is very easy to claim De Gea is to blame," said Schmeichel.

"I disagree. I think if De Gea had not played the way he did we would have lost 4-1.

"We played in a way that required the goalkeeper to make saves. He did that. He did his job. Nobody is highlighting that.

"My point is that if you are not that deep, we are not conceding those chances. That is the thing I would work on."

As Schmeichel pointed out, such intense training ground routines have been tough this season due to the huge numbers of injuries United suffered earlier in the campaign.

"In general, the way to win championships is not by defending as deeply as we did for the final hour on Sunday," he said.

"For the goal, David does all the right things. He got a fist to it under pressure but, unfortunately, the ball ends up with a Spurs player.

"We should be further up the pitch. If that starts with the goalkeeper, he needs to work on that, but we need them to be brave enough to take them out.

"With Nemanja Vidic being out for so long, there has not been a partnership that could take them out.

"He is there now and we need to work on it."

De Gea's place for Saturday's FA Cup fourth-round encounter with Fulham at Old Trafford is in doubt anyway as deputy Anders Lindegaard figured in the third-round replay with over West Ham.

Having missed the trip to Qatar, Sir Alex Ferguson will want a full debrief, including reports of a minor injury to Wayne Rooney, before finalising plans for a week that also includes a Premier League encounter with Southampton next Wednesday.

By then Wilfried Zaha should be a United player, and been loaned back to Crystal Palace.

Zaha is due to head north to agree personal terms and undergo a medical over the next 48 hours, with the Red Devils forced to purchase the 20-year-old England star outright and send him back to Selhurst Park, rather than just agree an 'intention to purchase' as they did with Chris Smalling two years ago.

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