CHICAGO — The beginning of the David de Gea era for Manchester United certainly started in disconcerting fashion.
The Spanish teenager was at the losing end of a header from Chicago Fire defender Corey Gibbs in the 13th minute of the Red Devils’ eventual 3-1 win on Saturday, a rude and unexpected welcome for the phenom who might carry the torch in net for Manchester United in the near future.
But aside from that play — in which he fairly didn’t have much of a chance — de Gea’s successful debut was perhaps more about the Fire’s mishaps than his heroics. The former Atlético Madrid netminder made six saves in the win but was actually tested quite rarely, with Chicago missing chances wide of the goal instead of making the lanky 19-year-old newcomer prove his weight in his first action with the club.
De Gea’s best moment came in the 45th minute, when his kick save on Chicago winger Patrick Nyarko would have played just as well in net at a Chicago Blackhawks game. Nyarko took a pass from defender Gonzalo Segares roughly nine yards out and tried to slip a right-footed poke past de Gea, but the Spaniard was up to the task with a lunge of his right foot.
That save held the surging Fire’s lead at just 1-0, kept Manchester United firmly in the game and helped set the stage for their comeback in the second half.
“I think that when he had to do something, he looked very comfortable,” Man. United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said. “He’s technically very good, and that was impressive.”
Both Ferguson and Red Devils goalkeepers coach Eric Steele did, however, question de Gea’s instinct on the Gibbs goal, wondering aloud if their new man could have snuffed the chance out.
“When they scored the goal, I thought maybe he could’ve come out," said Ferguson. "But when I saw it again, he had absolutely no chance at coming for it."
“We’ll prepare him on that,” Steele said. “We know what’s coming in the Premier League.”
De Gea signed with Manchester United on June 29, giving him less than ample time to adjust to his team before his first run on Saturday. Add in the fact that he’s only now learning English — with Steele, in turn, learning Spanish — and it’s been an incredibly quick trial by fire thus far.
“It will not be easy for him to come play for Man. United, because before him was one of the best goalkeepers in the world in Edwin van der Sar,” defender Patrice Evra said. “But he knows some words in English and I know some words in Spanish, so I know he’ll do well.”
Steele said the team’s “main man” for conversations with de Gea will be Mexican star Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, who is expected to join the team on Sunday.
Steele added that de Gea will likely appear in either the MLS All-Star Game next Wednesday or the Red Devils’ matchup against Barcelona on July 30.
“We know where we want to be,” Steele said, “and at the moment, we’re pleased with his progress.”