David De Gea & less than ideal circumstances

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Post Real Madrid melodrama, David De Gea will return to Manchester United’s starting line-up against Liverpool on Saturday night.

It’s long overdue; with the greatest respect to Sergio Romero, he was bought to Old Trafford to play a back-up role and even though - the Swansea game aside - he hasn’t done that much wrong, he is a very middle-of-the-road goalkeeper who isn’t equipped to be a big club’s first-choice.

So back comes De Gea and over the coming months that will clearly strengthen Manchester United considerably.

But don’t disregard what a tough reintroduction this might be.  Having not played a competitive club game all season, he will be walking straight back into the fiercest domestic game in England and, even though Liverpool were underwhelming throughout August, that’s quite a daunting prospect for a young player.

More importantly though, he is a player who has spent the entire Summer listening to his value being debated and an whose shoulders there is a certain amount of pressure.  De Gea will unquestionably want to step back into the first-team on Saturday and immediately remind everyone of just how talented he is, but goalkeepers, probably more so than any other players, depend on continuity.

On Tuesday night, he kept a clean sheet for Spain during their 1-0 win in Macedonia, but that presented a different sort of challenge to the one he’ll face at the weekend.  Louis Van Gaal will presumably keep faith with the back-four who started at The Liberty Stadium before the international break, meaning that De Gea will line-up behind a defence consisting of two players with whom he has no history.

That’s theoretically problematic.  Daley Blind may have been at Manchester United last season, but he has transitioned to centre-back only recently.  Similarly, Matteo Darmian is a new signing and De Gea will subsequently have to forge a relationship with the Italian on the fly.

Individually, these little details can seem incidental, but those on-combinations are very important and, on the basis that Premier League games are typically decided on wafer-thin margins, having vague understandings between a goalkeeper and two of his surrounding teammates is less than ideal.

He won’t have trained as the first-choice within United’s match-preparation scenarios prior to the transfer-window closing and he only returned to the club on Wednesday.  Even for someone of his abilities, that’s a tough situation to be in.

That isn’t to say that David De Gea will fail on Saturday or be in any way disappointing, just that if he does play well - if he continues from where he left off in 2014/15 - it will be all the more impressive.

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