No one at United is blaming de Gea

Manchester United's David de Gea watches helplessly after Marcos Alonso pounced on the goalkeeper spilling the ball to score Chelsea's equaliser at Old Trafford. The error was one of the Spaniard's recent mistakes that have cost the Red Devils nine g
Manchester United's David de Gea watches helplessly after Marcos Alonso pounced on the goalkeeper spilling the ball to score Chelsea's equaliser at Old Trafford. The error was one of the Spaniard's recent mistakes that have cost the Red Devils nine goals in 11 appearances over the last two months.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Solskjaer defends his under-fire 'keeper even as United's top-four hopes slip further away

LONDON • Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted he still had faith in David de Gea after his No. 1 goalkeeper's latest howler allowed Chelsea to come away with a 1-1 Premier League draw on Sunday, severely damaging Manchester United's hopes of Champions League qualification.

Asked if he should have been left out in favour of back-up Sergio Romero, the United manager responded with a resounding "No".

He said: "David has been a fantastic 'keeper at this club, his reaction after Manchester City was good and I was confident in him.

"He knows he could do better with their goal, but it's one of those things again."

Defending the three-time winner of the club's Player of the Year award as "not the reason why we are sixth", the Norwegian insisted that de Gea would keep his place in goal for their penultimate league match at relegated Huddersfield on Sunday.

He said: "David has been unbelievable. We do support each other. There is no chance anyone can blame him for losing points.

"There's many different ways of getting back into your best performances and, of course, I'll sit down and speak to David as I've done when he's played well."

The result leaves sixth-placed United, who have now won only twice in the past 10 games, on 65 points, three behind Chelsea in fourth, who also have a superior goal difference by eight.

The Red Devils took the lead through Juan Mata's 11th-minute opener and were in control until Chelsea centre-back Antonio Rudiger's speculative strike from long range was spilled by de Gea, enabling defender Marcos Alonso to snaffle up the rebound for the equaliser.

De Gea's blunder at Old Trafford was the latest in a run of mistakes from the Spain international that have cost nine goals in 11 appearances over the last two months.

According to sports analyst Opta, de Gea has made three errors leading to goals in his last four games in all competitions for United - as many as in his previous 123 matches combined for the club.

De Gea, 28, joined United from Atletico Madrid in 2011.

Solskjaer, who also lost Eric Bailly for the rest of the season with a knee injury, refused to accept de Gea had eased off with his place being seen as untouchable, pointing to the quality of his understudies, Romero and Lee Grant.

The Norwegian said: "He's got two great 'keepers underneath him in Sergio and Lee.

"Sergio's played well every time he's played. Lee's fantastic in training, they keep pushing each other.

"You cannot say there's any complacency, David is not the type to be complacent.

"He's a competitor, he wants to be the best and, for whatever reason, whenever I didn't score a goal (in my playing days), my confidence dropped if I missed chances.

"There's no chance any of us will point fingers because he's saved us so many times."

However, pundit Craig Burley told ESPN that as long as the uncertainty over the Spaniard's future rages on - he is reportedly demanding a weekly wage of £350,000 (S$616,589) to extend his deal, which is up at the end of next term - it will continue to "get in the way of what he does naturally".

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2019, with the headline 'No one at United is blaming de Gea'. Print Edition | Subscribe