Manchester United 2-1 Everton: De Gea steals Di Maria’s thunder

David De Gea pulled out three spectacular saves from thin air in the dying moments of each half as Manchester United held on to a thrilling 2-1 win over Everton at Old Trafford on Sunday, as reported by Sky Sports.

United took the lead in the 26th minute of what was a dominating first-half performance via record signing Angel Di Maria, who slotted in a neat pass from Juan Mata from inside the 18-yard box.

United could have conceded their well-deserved lead just before the break, when left-back Luke Shaw made a clumsy tackle inside the box.The referee awarded what was a clear penalty to the away team and up stepped Leighton Baines to take it, who hadn’t missed one in 14 previous attempts.

However, Baines’s resulting spot kick to De Gea’s right wasn’t very impressive as the United goalkeeper guessed right and helped his side preserve their lead.

Everton would eventually equalise in the second half via a wonderfully scripted team goal, resulting from a free kick. Baines made up for his error in the first half by finding Steven Naismith with a delightful cross into the box, which the former powerfully headed past a helpless De Gea.

However, Everton’s joy would only last seven minutes as a predatory Radamel Falcao, searching for his first United goal, pounced on a mishit from Di Maria and deflected the shot past Tim Howard.

With almost 30 minutes still to go in the half, both sides made changes and got the fresh legs on for what was bound to be an intense last third of the game.

However, United held on to their slender lead and looked set to collect three points, before Naismith woke the hosts up with a threatening, but mishit header from six yards with three minutes of normal time to go. The resulting corner led the ball onto Everton veteran Leon Osman’s path who sent a belter in towards goal from inside the box, only for De Gea to stick out his right hand in the nick of time and deflect the ball over.

The visitors continued to press on for their second equaliser as the officials announced four minutes of added time. Roberto Martinez’s side almost had it in the first minute of added time when Osman had another shot on goal that would’ve gone in on any other day.

But whether it was just the adrenalin kicking in or the fact that De Gea was in some sort of unshakeable trance, the Spaniard kept the ball out with another lunge and punch.

United eventually preserved their lead and won the three points that catapulted them into the top four, for the time being. They could end the week there depending on Sunday’s other results.

Louis van Gaal would overall be pleased with his team, who defended quite well for majority of the game, in spite of a long injury list including defenders Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans. Teenage centre-back Paddy McNair, playing only his second Premier League match, maintained his form from last week’s 2-1 win over West Ham, in a performance that would give him much confidence.

But for the last four minutes of the game, United’s man-of-the-match was Di Maria, who scored his second goal for the Red Devils and inadvertently had an assist in the team’s second goal. Playing at the left of a midfield diamond, Di Maria looked extremely threatening on the attack and extracted a variety of¬†delightful tricks from his bag to keep the crowd entertained.

However, if there was anyone who earned United a valuable three points, it was the 23-year-old De Gea. If not for him, the scoreline could have read 2-4 in the visitors’ favour.

De Gea has matured into a strong, agile and almost elastic keeper for the Reds after three seasons. Brought in from Atletico Madrid to fill into the enormous boots of Edwin van der Sar, De Gea had a difficult and nervy start to his career at Old Trafford.

A wiry, almost petrified 20-year-old at the time, his induction into the very physical Premier League was harsh. He wasn’t dumped into the deep end of a pool, but ¬†the ocean. He earned a lot of critics who questioned whether United had erred by bringing in someone so inexperienced.

However, three years later you come to realise that there couldn’t have been a better learning curve. De Gea was United’s Player of the Season for 2013-14 in what was a largely forgettable season. But if there was a reason United finished seventh and not in the bottom half of the table, it was him.

As The Telegraph aptly put it, De Gea’s rare mistake last week against West Ham which resulted in a goal shows how much he has improved.

United now have a string of high-profile match-winners, goal-scorers and headline makers at their disposal, who are bound to script the team’s path this season. But David De Gea, with an inexperienced and still unsettled back-four ahead of him, deserves more praise and headlines from outside Old Trafford than he attracts.

(Featured image courtesy: Ignacio Palomo Duarte)

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