Simon Mignolet says being dropped against Manchester United last season motivated him to work harder and admits he tried to learn from a David de Gea masterclass at Old Trafford.
The Belgian keeper was left out by Brendan Rodgers last December after a poor run of form and watched from the bench as De Gea turned in a brilliant display to help United win 3-0 against their fierce rivals.
Mignolet says he chose to respond to Rodgers’ decision in a positive fashion and vowed to work hard to regain the No.1 spot from Brad Jones. After four games out of the picture, the 27-year-old returned to the side and enjoyed a positive second half of the season to firmly re-establish himself as the the Reds’ first choice.
Ahead of Saturday evening’s clash, Mignolet said: “Before the game, when the manager told me I wasn’t in the side, I said that I wouldn’t be out for long – I had to respond.
“On the morning I woke up, you can do two things: moan about it and let your head drop or be positive and work as hard as you ever did to come back into the team. That is what I did.”
Mignolet watched in awe from the bench at Old Trafford as De Gea denied Raheem Sterling a hat-trick and Mario Balotelli a brace with one of the best goalkeeping displays ever seen in the Premier League.
The Liverpool stopper added: “He kept Man United in the game that day and that is what you can do as a goalkeeper. Sometimes you are the hero and sometimes you don’t have anything to do and the ball goes in the back of the net.
“He saved them some points. I was thinking, ‘What can I learn and pick up and use in my game that he is using there?’”
Louis van Gaal must decide whether to recall De Gea on Saturday following the collapse of his move to Real Madrid. The former Atletico keeper has sat out the first four Premier League matches and United’s Champions League qualifier, with Van Gaal deciding that the persistent transfer speculation had affected his stopper’s focus.
But with stand-in Sergio Romero failing to convince and De Gea having played 90 minutes for Spain on Tuesday in their Euro 2016 qualifying win over Macedonia, Van Gaal may opt to bring his No.1 back into the side.
Mignolet believes De Gea can cope with an immediate return to the United goal.
He said: “The only thing I know is that he is a very good goalkeeper who has proved himself to be very important for Manchester United over time.
“I think he has all the abilities to play again. Is he ready? Well, he played with Spain this week and was ready then. He kept a clean sheet.
“It depends on how he is and what kind of state he is in… that’s for United to judge whether he is in a good frame of mind to play. The mental aspect of being a goalkeeper is very important. You have to go into the game with full concentration and confidence, so that is a big part of your game.
“When you are in a good frame of mind then obviously the performance is going to be better. That is logical.
“But I cannot say what is happening in his head – United must decide that.”