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Featured Image Credit: Ash Donelon/Manchester United
Manchester United surprisingly beat Liverpool 4-0 in their opening pre-season fixture, but David de Gea's actions in goal was something that caught the eye.
It was in the opening exchanges of the match which saw a familiar sight. Luis Diaz drove inside from the left hand side and hit a shot from range which De Gea palmed away from the United goal. That was after he made an instinctive block with his leg from a low cross on the left side.
With 128 saves in the Premier League last term, the Spaniard is no stranger to seeing a shot fly towards his goal, but it has been the other areas of his game which have raised concern beforehand.
While it was only a warm-up game ahead of an important season under new manager Erik ten Hag, De Gea showed that he is aiming to improve at these different aspects which separates the very top of the goalkeeping department from the rest.
The first sight of change was when Victor Lindelöf played back to him whilst under pressure.
It wouldn't have been unexpected to see De Gea clear the ball high and wide as he was closed down, but instead he rolled the ball to his right after sending the striker the wrong way and played to Diogo Dalot on the right, who then had space to drive into.
In the first half, the goalkeeper completed 19 out of his 22 attempted passes. One of those which were unsuccessful was an ambitious pass to Marcus Rashford on the left-wing; which was close to finding the Englishman.
Another first-half instance saw United's centre-backs, Victor Lindelöf and Raphael Varane, split as De Gea had the ball. He then found Fred in the middle, who could turn and progress the play.
There was also a number of occasions where De Gea produced some nice clipped passes to his full-backs.
Not only was De Gea showing promise with the ball at his feet, but also with his proactivity outside of his area - something that he's also been heavily criticised for previously.
He left his box on a number of occasions during his time on the pitch in order to attempt to sniff out attacks and stop them at the source.
Most notably was when the ball was played into space for new Liverpool striker Darwin Nunez to run onto. De Gea left his line early and beat the Uruguayan striker to the ball which had just entered the United third on the goalkeepers left side.
These are two of the three key areas where the 31-year-old needs to improve. His cross claiming is another issue that has been highlighted before.
Ten Hag has already detailed how he wants his team to eventually play, "We want to play a proactive style of football – on the ball and off the ball.” He said in an interview last week.
That will include the defence and goalkeeper. It was apparent with the aggressive nature that United's central defenders had against the opposition forwards on Tuesday. This will also mean that De Gea's sweeping ability will be crucial if Ten Hag is to continue with this forceful approach from his defenders.
De Gea will also be tasked with being the first line of offence, with it being likely his on-ball responsibilities increase next season.
With Dean Henderson on loan next season at Nottingham Forest, Ten Hag has already put his trust in the Spanish goalkeeper.
Criticism of these areas in De Gea's game during previous seasons has been fair, but under the new management every player deserves a chance to prove they can improve their flaws under the stewardship of the Dutch coach, who seems to be a very hands-on coach, in contrast to his predecessors.
His performance before he was subbed in the 68th minute, with a slight knock, was one of promise. That is encouraging for those that realise how important his role could be next season.
With five more games before the Premier League curtain calls, fans will hope to see David de Gea continue to show these aspects in his performances.