David de Gea produced a timely reminder of his lightening reflexes in a match-winning performance against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
After denying Romain Saïss’ first attempt, it looked certain that the Moroccan was going to score Wolves’ first goal of the season with a simple tap in and threaten to end United’s record away run.
But De Gea was quick to react, made himself big and produced a stop that former Manchester United stopper Peter Schmeichel was not only proud of, but also heralded as the save of the season so far.
The double save was a throwback to what the Spaniard was producing week in, week out at United, when he was at the peak of his powers, which earned him the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year Award on four occasions.
De Gea’s performance at Molineux was assured and it was refreshing to see him rushing off his line and playing the role of sweeper when required.
Out of favour for Spain
The 30-year-old hasn’t featured for his national side since a 1-0 UEFA Nations League defeat to Ukraine last October.
Since that loss to Ukraine, Luis Enrique has seemingly chosen Unai Simón as his current No.1 and has stuck by the 24-year-old despite a topsy-turvy Euro 2020.
The Athletic Bilbao keeper failed to control a Pedri backpass which gifted Croatia the lead in the last-16 clash, but after being bailed out by his team mates, Simon went from villain to hero with a man-of-the-match display, which saw his side beat Switzerland on penalties and advance to the semi-finals.
Simon couldn’t replicate his heroics in the shootout defeat to Italy, but like many of his national team mates, instead of having a short break ahead of the new season, Simon went to the Olympics.
After agonisingly missing out on a Gold medal following a 2-1 extra time defeat to Brazil on 7th August, Bilbao didn’t select Simon for the first two games of the season, which included a 1-1 draw with Barcelona, to ensure he had some form of break ahead of the new season.
Simon returned in the 1-0 victory against Celta Vigo in the last match before the September international break.
After his performance against Wolves and with Simon only just returning after a long summer, De Gea would have been forgiven for thinking that he would have a chance to stake his claim for Spain once again.
But it was Simon who Enrique selected in the 2-1 defeat to Sweden, which ended Spain’s 66-match run of undefeated World Cup qualifiers.
There was nothing Simon could do to deny Alexander Isak’s piledriver, but he would have been disappointed to allow Viktor Claesson to beat him at his near post.
Spain got back on track yesterday with a 4-0 win against Georgia, but with Enrique’s side leading 3-0, Simon nearly gifted the minnows a route back into the match just after the hour mark.
A strike by Zurab Davitashvili on the edge of the box was straight at Simon, but the ball squirmed through his hands and nearly spun into the back of the net.
Five minutes later, Simon produced a great stop to push a powerful Georges Mikautadze strike onto the crossbar.
In the 74th minute, Simon was replaced by Brighton & Hove Albion keeper Robert Sanchez, who was making his debut for the national side.
Meanwhile, De Gea was once again left on the bench wondering when his next chance will come.
Spain travel to Kosovo on Wednesday and with Enrique’s two other goalkeepers already featuring during this international break, Wednesday’s selection could highlight where De Gea currently stands with his national side.
Repeat of club fortunes
De Gea may have to wait patiently and bide his team to feature for Spain once again, which could have been the case for Manchester United at the start of this season if things had gone differently this summer.
After pulling out of England’s Euro 2020 squad with a hip injury, Dean Henderson was hoping to use pre-season whilst De Gea was on holiday to impress Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the quest to start the season as United’s number one.
However, Henderson never got this opportunity after contracting coronavirus and the symptoms he sustained derailed his ability to train.
The 24-year-old has only recently returned to training and is slowly rebuilding his strength.
This allowed De Gea to start the season as number one with summer signing Tom Heaton taking his place on the substitutes bench.
De Gea hasn’t looked back and his performance against Wolves would have elevated his confidence. And with Raphaël Varane producing an assured debut in front of him, De Gea has the perfect opportunity to build on an impressive start to the new campaign.
If the former Atletico Madrid goalkeeper maintains his current form, the pressure on Enrique to reinstate De Gea will increase.
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