Ferguson praises De Gea’s progress

United manager maintains goalkeeper was ‘assaulted’ by West Ham striker Andy Carroll during 2-2 draw at Upton Park

Manchester United's goalkeeper David de Gea  is challenged by West Ham United's Andy Carroll. Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

Manchester United's goalkeeper David de Gea is challenged by West Ham United's Andy Carroll. Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters


Alex Ferguson believes David de Gea’s performance at West Ham on Wednesday showed how much progress the Manchester United keeper has made since his arrival from Atletico Madrid.

De Gea has endured a lot of criticism during his short time in England. Mostly it centred around the 22-year-old’s lack of a physical presence and his perceived inability to cope with congested penalty areas. Yet he can have had no more stern examination than the one provided by Andy Carroll at Upton Park, with Ferguson still of the belief the West Ham striker should have been sent off for a clattering first-half challenge on De Gea.

De Gea came through the test, somewhat dispelling doubts over his ability to cope.

“His first game last season was away from home against West Brom,” Ferguson told MUTV. “The referee felt he was a young goalkeeper, who was not used to English football. There was a laxity in terms of protection for him. That has passed now but Wednesday was beyond the pale. Let’s be honest, there was an assault on him. But he stood up to it. He didn’t let it affect him. He was brave and got on with his job.”

De Gea is closing in on his first Premier League title winners’ medal, as is midfielder Tom Cleverley, who has had a strange season. An ever-present for England this season, Cleverley has also racked up 30 appearances for United.

He featured in key Premier League victories over Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City earlier in the season and also started the second leg of the Champions League clash with Real Madrid, when the Red Devils did so well before Nani was controversially sent off.

Since then though, the only games he started were the FA Cup quarter-final and replay against Chelsea and he has not been involved in any of the three league games since his six-minute cameo at Sunderland on March 30th.

He does have a role to play though, even if the Yorkshireman recognises a need to improve his goals output, which presently stands at four.

“I have not scored for a few games, so I wouldn’t mind another couple,” said Cleverley. “It is obviously important for someone in my position to chip in with the goals and get as close to double figures as I can. That would be a good return for a midfielder.”

Monday’s Old Trafford encounter with Aston Villa should offer an opportunity given that, barring Reading, the midlands outfit has the worst defensive record in the Premier League.

Cleverley knows a number of Paul Lambert’s young squad from England Under-21 duty, and he can hardly have failed to notice Christian Benteke, who has been nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award.

Preserving Villa’s top-flight status is a lot of responsibility to place on such young shoulders. But Cleverley is not convinced there is any more pressure at the bottom of the league than there is at the top.

“There is pressure at both ends,” he said. “There are a lot of young players in our squad who are having to cope with the pressure of fighting for the title. “They have the same and are fighting against relegation. That is football. You always have to win games.”