Manchester United fans will tell you that they possess the best goalkeeper in the world at the moment.
As each year passes, it becomes increasingly difficult to disagree with that assertion. The Spain No 1 has won the club’s Player of the Year award three times in the past four years and regularly steals headlines from his attack-minded team-mates Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and Marcus Rashford.
But when he first arrived at Old Trafford in 2011, he was making the wrong kind of headlines. In his debut season at the club, United’s defence looked a shell of its former self, as they shipped goals for fun.
Not only was he incredibly underwhelming in his debut against West Brom, De Gea also deputised in the infamous 6-1 defeat at Old Trafford by Manchester City.
In the run-up to a game against Chelsea, it was unclear whether Sir Alex Ferguson was going to even play the Spaniard, but in the end stuck with him in favour of Ben Amos.
That game would prove, in part, to be something of an arrival for De Gea. The game finished 3-3 but De Gea pulled off an outrageous save in the dying moments from a Juan Mata free-kick.
But De Gea believes the patience and support of Ferguson affected his development too.
“The second big moment was midway through my second season,” De Gea told the Daily Mail. “I had been under pressure after a game at Spurs, where Gary Neville criticised me. I made a mistake late on but I’d made a hatful of brilliant saves that day. It doesn’t bother me. Neville was right about the error. It was snowing and I misjudged a cross.
“Not long after, we were playing at Real Madrid. Ferguson brought me into the press conference in the Bernabeu. He told everyone, the British media, the Spanish media, that I had a special talent.
“I remember what he said exactly. He compared me to a toddler taking their first steps forward. You wobble, get up, wobble, get up again and then you walk.
“Ferguson ended that press conference saying, ‘The boy is walking now’. Ferguson sat next to me and told the world how much he believed in me. I felt emboldened. Ferguson was very patient with me. He did not shout and was never too harsh. He knew I needed time and trust.”
Another example of Ferguson’s incredible player management.