David de Gea’s wonder show at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday led Manchester United’s interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to claim the Spaniard might be the club’s best keeper ever.
De Gea made 11 saves in the second half at Wembley as United clung on to Marcus Rashford’s first-half strike to win 1-0 — Solskjaer’s sixth win in six matches since taking over following Jose Mourinho’s sacking.
At times it appeared to be De Gea versus Tottenham as he made incredible stops to deny Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Toby Alderweireld — many with his legs.
No other Premier League keeper has made as many saves in 90 minutes as De Gea managed in 45 at Wembley and Solskjaer, who played in United teams with Danish great Peter Schmeichel and Dutchman Edwin van der Saar between the posts, said the 28-year-old could surpass both.
“We’ve had some great keepers at this club and I think he’s challenging both Edwin and Peter for the number one spot historically,” Solskjaer told reporters.
“We had a good back four and David in behind them was unbelievable. You are allowed to have a good goalkeeper.
— FOLLOW US ⚽💪 (@TheSwypeSports) January 13, 2019
“I’ve played with a few fantastic goalkeepers. We have a tradition of having them and he has grown and grown. He deserves that man of the match today.”
It was not De Gea’s busiest day, though, since he arrived at United from Atletico Madrid in 2011. In 2017 he pulled off 14 stops in a league match at Arsenal.
“I was feeling very well with the first two saves, it was a great game,” De Gea said. “I don’t even remember some of the saves so I can’t pick a best.”
Smiling assassin Solskjaer spreading happiness at United
Solskjaer’s return to United has rejuvenated the club’s spirit on and off the pitch, but the Norwegian says only winning games can keep him smiling. “I think he’s the best in the world, obviously there’s a few other decent ones out there, but I’m very, very happy that he’s in my team,” Solskjaer told reporters of his Spanish goalkeeper.
De Gea has said the new caretaker boss, who replaced the sacked Jose Mourinho last month, has brought happiness back to the club, but Solskjaer believes the improved mood is very much down to what the team does on the pitch.
“I don’t think anyone would be happy if we didn’t win games. It’s about winning games, but you have to realise when you’re at Man United, you have to put a smile on your face,” the 45-year-old said.
“You have to go into work every day enjoying it, because one day, suddenly, it’s over and you look back and say ‘Oh, that was a great time’.
“Come in, work, enjoy it. If you win games, you smile even broader, if not you wake up next day and you go back to work and you try again.”
Pictures from United’s warm-weather break in Dubai last week showed a relaxed group of players enjoying each other’s company after a tense and turbulent start to the season under the surly Mourinho.
The win over Spurs was the sixth in a row since the more laid-back Solskjaer took over, and they are now sixth in the table on 41 points, behind Arsenal on goal difference and six points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea.
Solskjaer was nicknamed “the baby-faced assassin” in his United playing days as a prolific striker under manager Alex Ferguson when they dominated English football.
“We’re not where we should be. Man United should never only look for the top four, so of course we have a job to catch up to the teams in front of us,” he said.
“We’ve got some games coming up now that we’re expected to win maybe, where we’re at home, so let’s just concentrate on the next performance and keep working as we do in training,” he said.