Belfast Telegraph

Teams need a safe pair of hands in goal

By James Tait: Biting Back

Sir Alex Ferguson once said that a great goalkeeper is worth 15 points over the course of a season.

Well, 16 games in to the 2014-15 Premier League, and Manchester United shot-stopper David de Gea has already earned his team a generous portion of their 31 points to date.

The Spaniard endured a shaky start to his Old Trafford career after Ferguson shelled out £17.8m in 2011 for his services from Atletico Madrid, a British record fee for a goalkeeper.

On his league debut, he came under fire for failing to save a Shane Long goal during a 2-1 win against West Brom. He showed glimpses of his talent over the month of September in triumphs against Arsenal and Chelsea, but was in goal when United suffered their worst home defeat since 1955 - the 6-1 loss to neighbours Man City.

Fast forward three years and De Gea is staking a real claim as the best goalkeeper in England, turning in a masterclass between the posts yesterday as United beat Liverpool 3-0.

Still only 24, he has been integral in his side's recent hot streak under Louis van Gaal, winning their last six consecutive games - conceding only three goals in the process.

But as the Red Devils continue their unorthodox title challenge, lying in third place eight points behind leaders Chelsea, contrast the fortunes of Liverpool.

Boss Brendan Rodgers dropped Simon Mignolet for yesterday's defeat after a string of error-strewn displays. The Reds are now languishing ninth in the Premier League.

Goalkeepers are often overlooked when individual awards are handed out - but what a difference a great one makes.

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