Football: De Gea shines as Man United beat Liverpool 3-0

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney (on ground) celebrates with Michael Carrick (left), Jonny Evans (right) and Ashley Young (partially obscured), after scoring the opening goal during their English Premier League football match against Liverpool at Old
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney (on ground) celebrates with Michael Carrick (left), Jonny Evans (right) and Ashley Young (partially obscured), after scoring the opening goal during their English Premier League football match against Liverpool at Old Trafford in Manchester, northern England December 14, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MANCHESTER (Reuters) – Manchester United recorded a sixth successive Premier League win when they beat old rivals Liverpool 3-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday.

The latest victory, sealed with goals from Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Robin van Persie, kept them in third place, five points behind neighbours Manchester City and eight behind the leaders Chelsea.

But they had Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea to thank for such a convincing margin. He made a series of fine saves from Raheem Sterling and then substitute Mario Balotelli.

Rooney scored against the run of play from Antonio Valencia’s inviting pass to put United ahead in the 13th minute and although Mata was clearly offside as Van Persie flicked on Ashley Young’s cross to him shortly before half-time, the goal was allowed to stand.

De Gea made eight notable saves against Liverpool in what was another flawless performance from the rapidly-maturing 24-year-old Spaniard.Behind a vulnerable defence, De Gea thwarted Raheem Sterling and Mario Balotelli with a string of excellent saves.Not only did his heroics secure a sixth successive Premier League victory it also helped enhance his place amongst the world’s goalkeeping elite.United have been blessed with some of the greatest goalkeepers of the Premier League era in Schmeichel and van der Sar who provided the bedrock of countless title-winning sides.After De Gea arrived from Atletico Madrid in 2011 initial assessments were that the rangy and unconvincing Spaniard would fail to establish himself as a commanding and assured keeper in the hurly burly of the Premier League.He was susceptible under crosses and in high-pressure situations.Once seen as a weak link in United’s side, De Gea has since matured into their most consistent performer and one of the primary reasons they sit third in the Premier League table.

“I’ve seen quite a few decent (performances) from the keepers I’ve played with in Schmeichel and van der Sar. But today was probably the best one I’ve seen at Old Trafford from a United keeper,” Sky Sports pundit Solskjaer said. “He’s saved them. There are six clear cut chances that should have been goals.”

Manager Louis van Gaal told Sky Sports that De Gea had been “influential” in their win and Jamie Carragher, another Sky pundit, said it was a performance that few could match.

“We talk now about who the best goalkeeper in the world is. Maybe Manuel Neuer, (Thibaut) Courtois would be very close,” Carragher said. “I bet if you’d ask those two goalkeepers they haven’t put a performance in like that. That’s one of the best goalkeeping performances I’ve seen. He was brilliant.”

Robin van Persie, scorer of United’s third goal, said De Gea had helped disguise the blemishes in the home side’s display. “David (De Gea) was outstanding. He was brilliant. It’s not often a team wins 3-0 and the goalkeeper is man of the match.”