David De Gea
No contest. Again, Manchester United fans look back to the days of a faulty fax machine and wonder how crucial that moment in time will be for their hopes in this season’s title race.
United had no right to get a point at Anfield yesterday, and although their defence stood up to a rampant Liverpool attack there is no doubt that with any other goalkeeper they would’ve likely departed Merseyside with nothing.
From the moment Martin Atkinson’s lips nestled against his whistle, United struggled to cope with Liverpool’s ability to press man to man in the final third of the pitch.
What resulted was a mess. In some of United’s previous performances, their fluid passing could qualify as a world-class art exhibition. Yesterday’s attempt to control the midfield though was the result of the painting falling off its stands and landing in the lake.
When United received the ball they knew that the easiest option was to essentially hit and hope, praying that Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial or Ashley Young would hold the ball up further up the pitch.
Liverpool understood the technicalities of the match to the core and blocked off the channels, suffocating the Red Devils into their own box.
Against most teams the probability they will score a goal is high. Unfortunately, most teams do not have De Gea.
When it looked like the home side had worked their way through United’s defence, the eager-eyed Spaniard denied them.
And one moment in the first half proved it. By half an hour it was pretty clear Liverpool were by far the more likely team to hit the back of the net, and on 34 minutes created a silky channel of play down the left channel.
Roberto Firmino had started the game promisingly and on 34 minutes his curling cross from the left dumfounded three United players, finding Joel Matip five yards out.
Easy finish eh? Remarkably, De Gea stuck out a reactionary left leg, taking the power off the ball to allow Phil Jones to pounce and clear. The timid attempt found Mo Salah who could only fire wide. De Gea roared. United escaped.
While the Spanish goalkeeper did not produce another save like that in the rest of the match his other stops were equally as important in United’s attempt to nick a point at their greatest rivals.
Perhaps it is no surprise that De Gea now leads this season’s Premier League clean sheet record with seven. So far this campaign he has saved 20 out of 22 shots, a 91% save percentage.
United may not score as many goals as Manchester City or indeed Liverpool this season, but if De Gea continues this form then their defensive ability could lead them to another league title.