DE GEA IMPROVEMENT KEY - MARTYN
Former England goalkeeper Nigel Martyn believes David de Gea's upturn in form has been the catalyst behind Manchester United's resurgence as odds-on favourites to retain their Barclays Premier League title.
Martyn, who made 23 appearances for England between 1992 and 2002, thinks the 21-year-old goalkeeper has rediscovered his confidence following a tough start to his career at Old Trafford.
De Gea has been under the spotlight after he replaced the retiring Edwin van der Sar, especially following some shaky performances in the early part of the season.
However, the Spaniard was unflappable in Monday night's 2-0 win over Blackburn at Ewood Park, tipping over Marcus Olsson's strike at the end of the first half before saving Grant Hanley's header from the following corner.
The performance was in stark contrast to his display against the same opposition at Old Trafford on New Year's Eve where he was subsequently dropped, and Martyn believes United's current success is closely linked with De Gea's improvement.
"He's a young man coming through a foreign country, playing in a different league and it's obviously going to take him a little bit of time to adapt," Martyn said.
"Working at it as he obviously is, it's bearing fruits now. His form has coincided with Manchester United's form at the end of the season and it's on that basis, a good defence and a good goalkeeper, that league titles are won.
"Possibly his mistakes were coinciding with the period of time that Manchester United didn't look as if they were realistic title challengers, but what has happened is his good form has coincided with theirs.
"It's probably not a coincidence that the two things have gone together and they've kicked on and really are odds on favourites to win.
"I think it's definitely his form that has enabled the rest of the team to gather their form. Goals have dried up going in and they've increased at the other end and that's always a good sign."
And Martyn, who ended his professional playing career playing for Everton in 2006, praised De Gea's attitude in overcoming his shaky start despite the glare of public and media attention.
"It's impressive for somebody so young. You're always better for having to come through a difficult period," Martyn said.
"He's dealt with his mistakes and taken his criticism. I haven't seen him moan about anything.
"Without doubt you make more mistakes the younger you are. You've seen the situation so many times before as you get older but when you're younger they're all fairly new situations so he's had to deal with that.
"He got his head down and got on with the work which is the right thing to do and now he looks like a much more secure goalkeeper again and Manchester United will need him to be for the remaining games they have to play.
"It's not over with - he has to maintain that level of performance but certainly on a confidence point of view it will be very high, and when your confidence is high, your ability shines through."
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