De Gea eyes United place after Spain start

MADRID • David de Gea is hoping to win back his place in goal at Manchester United after he played his first competitive football match this season in Spain's 1-0 Euro 2016 qualifying victory away to Macedonia on Tuesday.

Coach Vicente del Bosque gave him a vote of confidence by selecting him ahead of captain Iker Casillas for the match in Skopje.

Spain's comfortable win, thanks to an own goal, puts the holders two points clear at the top of Group C and close to securing their berth at the Finals in France next year.

De Gea's planned move to Real Madrid fell through in farcical fashion last week when the paperwork was delivered too late.

United coach Louis van Gaal has not used him this season while the transfer saga dragged on.

"I felt good, I really wanted to play," de Gea, who had little to do during the game, told Spanish television. "Now, I need to keep working and see if I have some good fortune at my club as well."

Argentine Sergio Romero, who replaced the Spaniard as United's first-choice 'keeper, has kept four clean sheets.

But he was criticised for their 1-2 loss to Swansea City before the international break.

With United next facing Liverpool at Old Trafford on Saturday, there is speculation that de Gea will get the nod.

"My future will be the same as now - remain calm, keep working and improving," added the Spaniard. "In concrete terms, enjoy my football. I am happy."

Spain, who have not conceded a goal in six qualifiers, lead their group on 21 points.

They are two ahead of Slovakia, who were held to a 0-0 draw at home by Ukraine on Tuesday.

The latter are three points behind Slovakia in third.

Chasing a third straight continental triumph, Spain can make sure of their place with a home win over Luxembourg on Oct 9 before they play in Ukraine three days later.

Although Spain enjoyed a comfortable win against bottom-placed Macedonia, del Bosque, who fielded a weakened team, was not happy with the performance.

"We have to recognise that we did not play well," he said at a news conference. "We could single out individuals but the right thing to do is to admit that there was a general dip in our play.

"After the goal, we were very static, slow, on the back foot and lacking in depth."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2015, with the headline 'De Gea eyes United place after Spain start'. Print Edition | Subscribe