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Where David De Gea stands in the pantheon of goalkeeping legends at Man United following landmark appearance

David De Gea made his 510th appearance for Manchester United yesterday, to move up to joint tenth on the list of all-time appearances for the club.

The Spanish international joined the Red Devils in 2011 as an up-and-coming goalkeeper and has been part of several trophy-winning teams at Old Trafford.

De Gea won the Premier League (2012-13) and the FA Cup (2015-16) under Sir Alex Ferguson. Under the managerial reign of Jose Mourinho, De Gea also featured between the posts to give United their first Europa League success (2016-17).

Following his arrival at United, De Gea had the task of replacing the legendary Edwin van der Sar. The first few seasons at Old Trafford saw him struggle to handle the Premier League’s intensity and pace.

He made some incredible saves but also a few howlers. However, persistence and perseverance saw the Spaniard slowly acclimatise to life in England and the pressure that comes with playing for United. 

De Gea has kept 177 clean sheets in 510 appearances for United. He is only three shut-outs behind Peter Schmeichel.

Given that De Gea could soon be the leading goalkeeper in terms of clean sheets in United history, a look at his career is deserved for the Spaniard. 

David De Gea is undoubtedly one of the greatest goalkeepers in the club’s history

In terms of appearances, only Alex Stepney leads David De Gea. Stepney, who played for the club from 1966 to 1978, made 539 appearances, 29 ahead of the Spaniard. However, the English star only recorded 175 clean sheets. 

Only five goalkeepers have only surpassed 100 clean sheets for United. The list features Gary Bailey (1978-87), Schmeichel (1991-99), Van der Sar (2005-11), Stepney (1966-78) and De Gea.

Honourable mentions must be made of Alfred Steward and Harry Moger, who fell four (96) and eight (92) short of the 100 clean sheets mark, respectively.

Despite De Gea’s impressive records as the number one at United, he still falls short of Schmeichel and Van der Sar in terms of accolades.

The latter kept 135 clean sheets in only 266 appearances. He remains the club’s last Champions League-winning goalkeeper, with his heroics in Moscow in 2008 fresh in the memories of fans.

Schmeichel’s legacy is arguably greater than Van der Sar’s. The Danish star was the pillar between the sticks during the Red Devils’ historic treble in 1999. He also kept 180 clean sheets in 398 appearances.

By contrast, De Gea has achieved nothing along those lines.

While Stepney and Bailey did not win much in terms of domestic titles, the former was also a European Cup winner with United.

However, Van der Sar and Schmeichel have won four and five league titles, respectively. The Danish legend also won the FA Cup three times.

De Gea undoubtedly holds a special place on the list of best goalkeepers in the club’s history. The Spaniard has guided United through one of its toughest phases in history.

This season will almost certainly mark ten years since the Old Trafford faithful have enjoyed a league title victory. 

Since Ferguson’s retirement, United have called off the pace in the Premier League, often relying on De Gea’s heroics to get them out of the mud.

This is also why the Spaniard has been a part of the PFA Team of the Year on five occasions and has also won the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year four times. 

However, the question that needs answering is whether he tops the list of the best goalkeepers the club has ever seen. The answer is ‘no’.

Schmeichel and Van der Sar stand head and shoulders above the rest, racking up several personal and team accolades to go with their goalkeeping prowess.

With a fair few years still left in his career, De Gea could be on the top of the list by the time he hangs up his gloves. However, there are plenty of question marks regarding his future at the club.

New manager Erik ten Hag prefers a goalkeeper who is good on the ball and represents a forward-thinking mode of playing.

The Spaniard, who often remains glued to his line, has had difficulty adjusting to the system. 

That being said, players are known to adapt their games and adjust to systems as time passes. The 32-year-old has shown determination and eagerness to stay at United and may end up securing a contract thanks to his steely performances this season. 

Even if he departs the club, De Gea has cemented himself in the history books at United. He is undoubtedly a tremendous goalie and one of the greatest to have worn the jersey at Old Trafford.

Irrespective of what people may think of his qualities, he deserves high praise for his services and love for United. Fans can only hope that United will add to his trophy cabinet in the near future.