Peter Schmeichel has revealed that he had serious doubts about David de Gea before Manchester United signed the Spaniard in 2011.
De Gea moved to Old Trafford from Atletico Madrid to replace outgoing club stalwart Edwin van der Sar. The stopper initially struggled, though, and faced heavy criticism for his poor performances.
Across Europe in Germany, however, was a 25-year-old Manuel Neuer who, after recently impressing against United in the Champions League, followed a similar fate to De Gea in agreeing an exciting move to Bayern Munich.
Speaking to United’s Unscripted series, Schmeichel revealed how he was desperate for his former club to avoid De Gea and instead swoop for Neuer.
“They knew it was so important to get it right [Van der Sar’s replacement] and not spend years chasing the situation,” he said.
“At the time, I actually thought there was an obvious answer. You had to look at how we play and ask: right, where’s the guy that’s going to slot in? To me, we’d very recently seen the answer. I thought Manuel Neuer was a perfect fit for us.
“He’d just been up against United with Schalke in the Champions League and, even though Schalke lost the tie, he’d shown us precisely what he could do. He was a very aggressive goalkeeper.
“He played like I played. I played to my strengths. I knew where my weaknesses were and I tried desperately not to end up in situations where they might be exposed.
“I was always trying to get my defenders to protect me from that. I really liked the way Neuer played – it might be because I played like that myself – and to me, it felt like a natural move. He suited us well and we wouldn’t have had to change how we played.”
SCHMEICHEL ‘COULDN’T UNDERSTAND’ DE GEA SWOOP
“Of course, I knew about David de Gea because he was a young player already playing for Atletico Madrid’s first team, so you just knew he obviously had something special,” Schmeichel added.
“But I didn’t think we’d be going for him. So when we did move for him, I honestly couldn’t understand why we’d gone down that route.
“I thought the experience of what had happened between me and Edwin would have been used, so it looked unusual to me.”
De Gea has since remained United’s number one goalkeeper, racking up 400 appearances and four Player of the Year awards.
However, the 29-year-old‘s form has dipped recently. His error in United’s 1-1 draw with Everton in March was his seventh leading to an opposition goal since the start of last season – the joint-worst record alongside Jordan Pickford.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, though, has strongly maintained that De Gea remains the best goalkeeper in the world.