David de Gea: ‘I hope we’re much better. It was embarrassing at times’ | Manchester United
David de Gea walks into room 1104 at Perth’s Ritz-Carlton, surveys the cramped setting, raises a wry eyebrow and proceeds to hold forth on topics including ending his career at Manchester United, last season’s “embarrassment” and Sir Alex Ferguson’s advice after his decisive Europa League final shootout miss.
The chat with the goalkeeper is at the team hotel before the last friendly of the two-week tour of Thailand and Australia, against Aston Villa on Saturday, with Liverpool (4-0), Melbourne Victory (4-1) and Crystal Palace (3-1) having been beaten in the opening matches of Erik ten Hag’s tenure.
De Gea was signed by Ferguson in summer 2011 and is the only member of the touring party who has claimed the Premier League title. He has also won the FA Cup and League Cup, been United’s player of the year five times, and made 487 appearances.
On 31 August 2015 the 31-year-old would have moved to Real Madrid in a £29.3m transfer if a fax had arrived on time. But, now, De Gea is ready to sign on for United until he retires.
“Yeah, if it’s possible,” he says. “If they let me stay I will stay, for sure. I’m really comfortable, happy and hopefully before I leave we can win something more.”
De Gea has 12 months left on terms worth a basic wage of about £290,000 a week, with an option for a further 12 months. “I didn’t talk with anyone yet [about a renewal] but of course,” he says. “Because I want to be here for more years.”
Last season United finished sixth, 35 points behind Manchester City, with De Gea often an outspoken critic of the team. He says: “We cannot do the same because it was a disaster. I really hope we’re going to play much better. It was very tough, embarrassing sometimes. Some games were a mess. It was painful, unacceptable. Sometimes, you have to feel pain to go up and keep going.”
This was De Gea’s lowest point at United. “Probably in the way we played,” he says. “The way we conceded chances.”
If the move to Real had not fallen through the Spaniard’s CV might show the four Champions Leagues and three La Ligas the club have since claimed. But there are no regrets.
“No. I’m just thinking about Manchester,” De Gea says. “It’s my home. It’s a privilege, an honour to be in this club. It’s one of the best things in my life. Winning or not winning, just being in this club means more than trophies. Of course, we want to win but representing United is bigger than any trophy.”
José Mourinho, a predecessor of Ten Hag’s, posited that the goalkeeper being voted player of the season – as De Gea was in four campaigns between 2013-14 and 2017-18 – is bad because this signals he is overworked and points to a lack of success chasing trophies.
“Yeah, totally agree,” De Gea says. “It’s good for me. I love to win trophies but I totally agree with what he said. It must be a striker, a midfielder – for sure this season it’s going to be [hopefully] another player.”
An optimistic note can be expected when any manager starts. Ten Hag is United’s fifth since 2013, and De Gea is frank when asked why the Dutchman can make United title contenders when David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjær have failed since the last triumph nine years ago.
“I don’t know; we need time to see and you never know the future,” he says. “This is just the beginning, but the players are working really hard, I feel good energy, more focus. We just try and prepare for the first game in the league.
“He [Ten Hag] is very intense, everything he says is fully focused, 100%. He brings new things, thoughts, so we need to adapt to him but we show already in those three games we are pressing high, we won the ball [this way]. We want to keep the ball, dictate, we want to lead the game.”
Ten Hag’s style is to build from the back and there is a view that De Gea may struggle to do this because he is not the most accomplished with his feet. “If you watch my games with the national team or when we played with Sir Alex you could see it,” he says. “I don’t need to show it to anyone. As always, I’m going to stay quiet, calm and try to show this to the team and play out from the back.”
United start the 2022-23 season by hosting Brighton on 7 August before a trip to Brentford the following weekend and Liverpool’s visit on 22 August. De Gea is sure to be selected if fit yet his automatic status was under threat two seasons ago when a series of mistakes moved Solskjær to give Dean Henderson a chance.
De Gea brushes this off. “Since I’ve been in this club the guy who sits on the bench wants to play, wants to be No 1. I always push myself, it doesn’t matter who wants to be in my job.”
Henderson, now on loan at Nottingham Forest, ended that season as the Premier League first choice but De Gea started the Europa League final. This ended in particular heartbreak after he missed the crucial penalty, consigning United to a 11-10 shootout loss to Villarreal.
With endearing understatement, De Gea says: “That season wasn’t the best finish. But that’s life sometimes. It was a bit strange to have to take the penalty but that happens in football.”
Ferguson, at the final in Gdansk, comforted him immediately. “Ferguson said: ‘Sometimes life is like this, it’s a penalty, that’s it. Of course it was a final, but keep working and next season show your best,’” De Gea says.
The dream is to claim more trophies. “One or two or three [titles], try to win the Champions League. We have to fight for everything.”