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Manchester United Players

Is this the most important fight for position at Manchester United in 2012?

Not everyone will agree, but personally I consider the goalkeeper to be the number one most important position on the football field.

Outfield players can spend 90 minutes grafting in search of goals and denying the opposition scoring opportunities but, in an instant, a goalkeeper can undo all that hard work and send morale spiralling to the floor if he’s easily beaten. It’s no coincidence that the greatest teams in history have all had a great, great goalkeeper.

At Manchester United, since the beginning of season 2011, there’s been a fight for the green jersey that’s seen both David De Gea and Anders Lindegaard share the responsibility of keeping sticks. An injury to the latter providing De Gea with an extended run in the team which, in my opinion, led to a marked improvement in his previously questionable form.

This season the responsibility was once again shared with De Gea now seemingly out-of-favour thanks to a mistake at home to Fulham which in all fairness could be attributed as much to Nemanja Vidic as it could De Gea. After spending the summer at the Olympics with Team Spain (against the wishes of Sir Alex Ferguson) then I guess the boy was lucky to begin the season with the shirt in the first place. Having then made that error, I consider the decision to immediately drop De Gea in favour of Lindegaard an easy one for the gaffer.

There’s been much discussion on RedRants, especially this week, about the need for a settled team and how the lack of one is possibly costing us the chance to build any kind of consistent form or create partnerships within the team, the goalkeepers position fits in the same category for me. Players need a run of games to build experience, fitness, form and more importantly an understanding & consistency within the team. Players at Manchester United over recent years are not receiving that.

When you take into account the difficulties the club is currently experiencing keeping the defenders fit and fielding a settled back four, it’s even more (I would have thought) important to settle a position that can be rather than purposely (needlessly perhaps) tinker with it.

Lindegaard has had this to say on manutd.com this week about tonight’s trip to Romania:

“We want to get through the group. We need it to be a no-nonsense campaign for us this time – we cannot afford to make the same mistakes as we did last season,” he told ManUtd.com.

“The Champions League is always a very special competition to be involved in. Hearing the music before the game and the whole atmosphere around the matches is something special every time.

“Tuesday’s game is another important one for us, but we look at every match as being important,” he added. “As I have said before, the amazing thing about being at United is there no difference between, say, playing Crawley at home in the FA Cup or Liverpool away in the league; we take the same approach every time and that is to work in the professional manner that has made the club into what it is today.

“We played in Romania last season and we hope for a similar result there on Tuesday. We have to go out there and win again.”

Does that suggest he’ll start tonight? I hope so. Not because I prefer him over De Gea, but because it’s about time one of them was given the opportunity to start every match in every competition, the other could easily go on loan (with Sam Johnstone capable of playing understudy) or sit tight and wait for their chance.

What do you think? Is De Gea too young at just 22 (next week) to command a regular start after a shaky start to his United career? If so, surely we should’ve bought an older, more experienced keeper with a few years left at the top (I’m thinking Buffon here) as well as De Gea, and given him more time to develop? Was Lindegaard purposely bought as an understudy but found himself getting games thanks to the obvious mistakes made by De Gea? Have United made another transfer market blunder? Is Lindegaard up to the standard required to become United’s number one? (He’s certainly got the right attitude). Does the price-tag on De Gea mean ultimately he has to be number one to avoid any more egg on any more faces?