SIR ALEX FERGUSON has admitted he wanted Manuel Neuer as goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar’s successor instead of David de Gea – but is glad he was persuaded to change his mind.
When Van der Sar announced in February 2011 he would retire at the end of the season, the Reds Devils’ search for a new No.1 intensified.
Atletico Madrid’s youngster De Gea was already in then United goalkeeper coach Eric Steel’s dossier on candidates but 25-year-old Neuer – then with Schalke – was Fergie’s choice.
Ferguson said: “Eric Steele had been scouting David de Gea for quite a while, but then Neuer came on the scene at Schalke. And I think Schalke would’ve been happy if we’d have gone and taken him.
“So my problem was Eric, because he was adamant that we must take De Gea. I said ‘but Eric, the boy Neuer is the complete unit; he’s mature, his physique is unbelievable’, and he says ‘yeah, but in three years’ time, De Gea will be better’.
“And Eric had been building a relationship with his parents, and was so adamant, that I had to trust him – and I’m glad I did, because he was right.”
And no doubt United fans are happy that, for one of the few times in his managerial career, Ferguson backed down.
De Gea arrived at Old Trafford in 2011 for £20million, while Neuer moved to Bayern Munich the same summer.
The Spaniard initially had a tough time of it in the Premier League, his slight frame not suited to the physical nature of the English game.
But to their credit, United stuck by him and haven’t they been rewarded since.
De Gea has been by far their best player over the past three seasons and has developed into one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
Who is the better keeper, De Gea or Neuer?