DAvid de Gea walks into room 1104 of the Ritz-Carlton in Perth, inspects the cramped surroundings, raises a wry eyebrow and continues to discuss topics such as the end of his Manchester United career, the ’embarrassment’ of last season and advice from Sir Alex Ferguson after his decisive penalty shootout in the Europa League final.
The goalkeeper chat is at the team hotel ahead of the final friendly of the two-week tour of Thailand and Australia, against Aston Villa on Saturday, featuring Liverpool (4-0), Melbourne Victory (4 -1) and Crystal Palace (3-1) after being beaten in the first matches of Erik ten Hag’s term.
De Gea was signed by Ferguson in the summer of 2011 and is the only member of the tour to win the Premier League title. He also won the FA Cup and League Cup, was United’s Player of the Year five times and made 487 appearances.
On August 31, 2015, the 31-year-old would have moved to Real Madrid in a £29.3million transfer had a fax arrived in time. But, now De Gea is ready to sign for United until his retirement.
“Yeah, if that’s possible,” he said. “If they let me stay, I will stay, for sure. I’m really comfortable, happy and I hope that before leaving, we can earn something more.
De Gea has 12 months left on terms equivalent to a base salary of around £290,000 a week, with an option for a further 12 months. “I haven’t spoken to anyone yet. [about a renewal] but of course,” he says. “Because I want to be here for more years.”
Last season United finished sixth, 35 points behind Manchester City, with De Gea often a vocal critic of the team. He says, “We can’t do the same thing because it was a disaster. I really hope we will play a lot better. It was very hard, embarrassing at times. Some games were a mess. It was painful, unacceptable. Sometimes you have to feel pain to get up and keep going.
It was De Gea’s lowest point at United. “Probably in the way we played,” he said. “The way we conceded chances.”
If the move to Real hadn’t failed, the Spaniard’s CV could show all four Champions Leagues and three La Liga the club has since claimed. But there are no regrets.
“No. I just think about Manchester,” says De Gea. “It’s my home. It’s a privilege, an honor to be at this club. It’s one of the best things in my life. Winning “Or not to win, just being at this club means more than trophies. Of course we want to win, but representing United is bigger than any trophy.”
José Mourinho, a predecessor of Ten Hag, has posited that the goalkeeper voted player of the season – as De Gea was in four campaigns between 2013-14 and 2017-18 – is bad because it signals that he is overworked and indicates a lack of success in trophy hunting.
“Yeah, totally okay,” De Gea says. “It’s good for me. I love winning trophies but I totally agree with what he said. He has to be a striker, a midfielder – for sure this season it’s going to be [hopefully] another player.
One can expect an optimistic note when a manager starts out. Ten Hag is United’s fifth since 2013, and De Gea is candid when asked why the Dutchman can make United title contenders when David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjær have failed since the last triumphed nine years ago.
“I don’t know; we need time to see and you never know the future,” he said. of focus. We’re just trying to prepare for the first league game.
“He [Ten Hag] is very intense, everything he says is fully focused, 100%. He brings new things, thoughts, so we have to adapt to him but we are already showing in these three games that we are pressing high, we have won the ball [this way]. We want to keep the ball, dictate, we want to lead the game.
Ten Hag’s style is to build from the back and there is an opinion that De Gea may struggle to do so because he’s not the most accomplished with his feet. “If you watch my games with the national team or when we played with Sir Alex, you can see that,” he says. “I don’t need to show it to anyone. As always, I will stay quiet, calm and try to show it to the team and play from the back.
United start the 2022-23 season by hosting Brighton on August 7 before a trip to Brentford the following weekend and a visit to Liverpool on August 22. De Gea is sure to be selected if he is fit, but his automatic status was in jeopardy two seasons ago when a series of errors prompted Solskjær to give Dean Henderson a chance.
De Gea dismisses that. “Since I’ve been at this club, the guy who sits on the bench wants to play, wants to be number 1. I always push myself no matter who wants to be in my job.”
Henderson, now on loan at Nottingham Forest, finished this season as the Premier League’s first-choice but De Gea started in the Europa League final. It ended in particular heartache after missing the crucial penalty, condemning United to an 11-10 shootout loss to Villarreal.
With endearing understatement, De Gea says: “This season hasn’t been the best. But sometimes that’s life. It was a bit strange to have to take a penalty, but it happens in football.
Ferguson, in the final in Gdansk, immediately comforted him. “Ferguson said: ‘Sometimes life is like that, it’s a penalty, that’s all. Of course it was a final, but keep working and next season give your best,” said De Gea.
The dream is to claim more trophies. “One or two or three [titles], try to win the Champions League. We have to fight for everything.