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For all the huff and puff around Louis van Gaal’s tactical switches and tinkering.

Without the brilliant individual contribution of his goalkeeper, United would likely linger in mid-table.

Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea integral to the Old Trafford blueprintDavid de Gea’s contract at Manchester United expires at the end of the 2015/16 season. The Stretford End would celebrate a five-year contract extension louder than they did Wayne Rooney’s winner at the Emirates on Saturday.

Initially criticised for lacking the attributes of a ‘Premier League goalkeeper’, the Spaniard is slowly changing the blueprint. His unorthodox technique means he is able to make close-range saves with his feet, when other shot-stoppers risk diving.

Simply put, de Gea looks like he has more time to make critical saves, a skill that separates good goalkeepers from the very best, a bracket the 24-year-old is now undoubtedly one apart of. Against Arsenal, as Jack Wilshere bore down on Manchester United’s goal with Tyler Blackett and Michael Carrick unable to make up the ground, de Gea opted not to rush out to Wilshere, where most orthodox teachings say it is a non-negotiable to help cut down the angle.

Rather, the goalkeeper stayed on his line which forced the England midfielder to make a late decision. In the end, it was a fairly routine save. It was not a finger-tip miracle, de Gea completely outfoxed Wilshere and saved with his chest. It could be argued the game swung on that moment, the Red Devils racing out to a two-goal lead thereafter.

It is little doubt that the Spaniard won Manchester United’s 2013/14 player of the season award, in what was the Trafford-based club’s poorest showing in the Premier League era. Still, de Gea was largely unfazed and made a series of telling contributions in England and in United’s stuttering European campaign, particularly in the second leg against Olympiakos as United triumphed 3-0 to progress to the quarter final.

The low-point of de Gea’s 2013/14 campaign came in the second leg of the Capital One Cup semi final against Sunderland. High-profile errors can define a goalkeeper’s season, and perhaps the 24-year-old was lucky so many of his team-mates were too, struggling for form under David Moyes. United led 1-0 thanks to a Jonny Evans flick, but de Gea’s late error when he fumbled Phil Bardsley’s low drive visibly unsettled his team, while Sunderland advanced to the final, ultimately falling at the final hurdle against Manchester City.

The club may not talk about it, but having to bare witness to the success that is raining down on its noisy neighbours is sure to hurt. But United’s renaissance continues unabated. de Gea’s 2014/15 campaign has not been without errors, but crucially, none have cost his side points.

When West Ham striker Diafra Sakho pulled the score back to 2-1 at Old Trafford, it was de Gea’s error when dealing with Stewart Downing’s cross that allowed the Senegalese to net what turned out to be a mere consolation.

Since then, however, the Manchester United custodian has displayed the kind of form that looks likely to propel United back to compete with the Premier League’s elite.

Hull City’s visit to Manchester on Saturday presents the 20-time champions with the opportunity to establish its top-four spot, while the surrounding clubs have what look to be tougher fixtures, on paper at least.

It’s taken the Spaniard ample time, but he is now repaying the faith originally put in him by Sir Alex Ferguson, and Van Gaal must follow this trend with doing whatever it takes to retain his signature.

The suggestion that the Scot left the club with a failing defence may have merit, but this goalkeeper may turn out to be one of United’s best.

Louis, sign him up.

Originally published at outside90.com

Post written by Chris Hearn (@_ChrisHearn) for Outside 90
Blog: outside90.com, Twitter: @Outside90

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