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When he is at his best David De Gea has to be considered to be one of Europe’s best shot-stoppers, but over the last 12 months, the Spaniard has accrued his fair share of critics after what was a lacklustre 2021/22 season for Manchester United.
During this difficult period for the Red Devils, De Gea has never been afraid of vocalising his displeasures. However, as we enter a new era at Manchester United, the no.1 is being forced to adapt to Erik ten Hag’s style of play.
In this Ten Hag system, the goalkeeper is an essential position in the team, with the man between the sticks being expected to be comfortable receiving and distributing the ball.
This is where De Gea’s abilities have been heavily doubted, especially when Premier League rivals such as Manchester City and Liverpool have goalkeepers in Ederson and Alisson that are so comfortable with the ball at their feet.
Despite the lack of belief in his talents from some corners of the United fanbase, David De Gea relishes the opportunity to improve under Ten Hag, this being something he was keen to highlight.
“We want to build from the back, I want to be ready to give options to the players from the back and of course, be ready to collect long balls”
During his decade-long spell at Manchester United, David De Gea has had to adapt to fit into a number of varying footballing systems that have been implemented by managers with different playing philosophies and he maintains that in the past he has shown his abilities with the ball at his feet.
“I think I showed already. If you watch my games with the national team or when we played with Sir Alex at the beginning, you could see it - I don’t need to show to anyone."
So far on the 2022 pre-season tour, Erik ten Hag has shuffled around his defensive options as he continues the implementation of his playing style.
This saw Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelöf combine to great effect last time out against Crystal Palace but has also sparked competition within the squad with Raphael Varane and Eric Bailly also vying for places.
Manchester United have also brought in Lisandro Martinez from Ajax this summer in a move that will heat up the competition even more.
Martinez’s experience playing at centre-back in a Ten Hag system will also prove to be incredibly valuable as United look to begin routinely playing out from the back.
When questioned, David De Gea discussed how he believes this defensive depth will be key to Manchester United’s success in the upcoming season.
“If you want to play from the back, you need a good structure, you need a lot of options, especially from the guys who are at the back. That’s fundamental.”
As comes with a drastic change in style and personnel, it will take time for Ten Hag’s principles to become fully embedded in the Manchester United squad and David De Gea knows that he can use his experience to help the team adapt.
“I’ve been playing for many years. As always, I’m going to stay quiet, calm and try to show that to the team and play out from the back”
United’s next pre-season fixture against Aston Villa will be another opportunity to gauge how much the squad is developing under Erik Ten Hag and will be another test from David De Gea as he continues to prove to his manager that he is the perfect fit for his playing style.