On the eve of the second weekend of the Premier League season, I wonder how many football fans have been jumping on the band-wagon and disrespecting rookie keeper David De Gea and veteran boss Arsene Wenger?
I make no apologies for stating that no breed is more fickle than the average football fan . . . and the abuse dished out for Manchester United’s 20 year-old goalkeeping protege and Arsenal’s best-ever manager is nothing short of scandalous.
It was great to hear United’s 1968 European Cup winner Alex Stepney spring to the defence of De Gea earlier this week when he declared: “At 20 years of age he can only learn and get better. And when I say get better, he’s blooming brilliant now. He can reach the standards of Peter Schmeichel and Edwin van der Sar.”
The young Spaniard may have gifted Manchester City a couple of soft goals in the Community Shield at Wembley and then allowed a weak shot to go under his body in his Premier League debut at West Brom. But United won both matches and writing off the kid who cost £18 million after one week is pure madness.
Every goalkeeper who ever played has dropped a clanger or two. But it’s how you come back after you make mistakes that separates the ones with potential from the greats. Chris Smalling spoke for everyone at United today when he said: “He has trained really well this week. You can see his agility and kicking. He will be a great goalkeeper for us.”
Personally, I have no doubt that De Gea will prove to be one of the world’s top goalkeepers. I just wish he would do the decent thing and get rid of that dodgy facial hair.
Meanwhile, the criticism Arsene Wenger has been getting at Arsenal is even more ridiculous. The departure of Cesc Fabregas and the immenent loss of Sami Nasri, following six trophy-less seasons has put the Gunners boss under increasing pressure from supporters. But the Frenchmen who has worked miracles and turned ‘boring, boring Arsenal’ into one of Europe’s most attractive teams deserves more respect.
David Dein, the man who took Wenger to North London in 1996 and urges fans to stand by their man, told the BBC: “People talk about ‘Has his time finished at the club?’ That’s a very dangerous thing to say because it’s easy to get rid of people and then what?
“People talk about buying players. Well, you’ve got to get players who are better than the ones you’ve got at the moment.”
He added: “I don’t know why he hasn’t bought at the moment, only time will tell. Maybe he thinks that this current squad has got the ability to win trophies. Only time will tell whether he’s right or wrong but I think it’s very early to say, ‘He’s lost the plot.’ He hasn’t lost the plot.”
Manchester United fans used to give Arsene Wenger more stick than anyone – but he won a lot of new fans at Old Trafford when he was sent off for kicking a plastic bottle and ended up on the roof of the dugout. Pure class from Arsenal’s living legend.