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Why is David de Gea exceptional for United and indifferent for Spain? | Jonathan Wilson

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Goalkeeper is an outstanding shot-stopper but does not excel at passing and this is reflected in how Manchester United play

David de Gea has been named in the PFA team of the year in five of the past six seasons. He has been Manchester United’s player of the year in four of the past five seasons. Last December, in Manchester United’s win at Arsenal, he equalled the Premier League record of 14 saves in a game. He is, by any measure, an exceptional goalkeeper, perhaps the best in the world. And yet De Gea’s position in the Spain starting lineup is far from certain after a run of indifferent form for the national side, the peak of which saw him allow a Cristiano Ronaldo shot to squirm under his body during Spain’s 3-3 draw with Portugal at the World Cup.

All goalkeepers make mistakes, of course, and the nature of the position means theirs tend to be remembered rather more distinctly than those of outfielders. But this was part of a pattern. De Gea does not play as well for Spain as he does for United. Trying to work out why that may be perhaps explains some of United’s difficulties under José Mourinho.

Related: Ander Herrera defends David de Gea after goalkeeper’s World Cup struggles

Related: Charming one day, insecure the next: the José Mourinho I knew at Chelsea | Eni Aluko

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