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03rd Jun 2015

Why David de Gea’s loyalty is a moot point…

Nooruddean Choudry

As Manchester United fans come to terms with David de Gea’s imminent departure, any talk of what he ‘owes’ the club is merely white noise…

The outgoing goalkeeper is far from extrovert; he is more buddhist monk than raving preacher. One imagines he would make a fine poker player, such is his mask of half-eyed disinterest.

There is a serenity to his silence that conveys a quiet confidence rather than bashful nerves. It shows in his game; he rarely clatters into opponents, but is always ready to seize the initiative and usually the ball, too.

Soon Old Trafford will have to make do without his ninja-like virtues. De Gea is almost certain to replace Iker Casillas as Real Madrid’s custodian, and his impending loss has been greeted with all sorts of anger and frustration.

Many United fans believe the Spanish stopper ‘owes’ them a level of loyalty; that his brilliant form is in some way the result of group effort. They stuck by him through adversity, and now he’s disappearing into the night.

This delusion of entitlement is perhaps understandable, given United’s history of providing staunch support for pariahs. It is a safe house for the condemned, ridiculed and lambasted – just as Eric, David, Cristiano and Wayne.

More often than not that support is repaid with doubled effort and the sweet fruit of revenge. It’s a told-you-so tale that’s played out again and again. But in the case of De Gea, he is ready to skedaddle with seeming indifference.

Part of the problem is the Spaniard’s dumbness. His lack of verbals and vacant prettiness make him a blank canvas. And that allows United fans to project all sorts of hopes, dreams and emotions upon him and wish them true.

The shy waif whose confidence was battered by constant criticism when he first arrived in England was able to overcome such hardship thanks to the backing of the fans. And supporters hope that’s what De Gea is thinking while he refrains from uttering a single word.

Or perhaps he just turned up to work each morning with an unshakeable self-belief that he would improve, regardless of the carry-on around him. For all we know he is blissfully ignorant of the romantic narrative weaved by fans and the media.

It is not his fault that he resembles everyone’s gangly little brother. He didn’t ask for sympathy or protection. It’s lovely that a set of supporters can be so patient of a youngster’s foibles but his brilliance was always evident.

De Gea is like a modern day Buster Keaton. A silent star able to perform ridiculous stunts of rare elegance. He also shares Keaton’s dedication and fearless resolve. United fans should hush their chagrin and move on – De Gea is writing his own script now.