The Spanish stopper has started both of United’s Premier League fixtures so far this campaign despite the return of competing goalkeeper Dean Henderson to the club.
De Gea endured an error-strewn year for United throughout 2019/20, placing his position in the starting XI under scrutiny.
While Henderson is yet to earn his stripes at United, the 23-year-old is eager to force his way into regular selection, and Cole believes de Gea needs to maintain high standards if he is to retain his spot.
“I think David de Gea’s in a little bit of credit for his previous seasons at Man Utd,” Cole said on Sky Sports. “I know he always felt fresh every season – season in season out, but he is in a bit of credit.
“I think it’s more what he doesn’t do – if he has a bit of a season like he did last season I think Henderson will definitely get his opportunity.”
Cole was present at the Amex Stadium to watch Henderson keep a second clean sheet in succession as United cruised to a 3-0 win over Brighton in the Carabao Cup.
Henderson was rarely troubled in United’s goal, but did make one brilliant save from Leandro Trossard, turning his close-range effort round the post with a solid hand.
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His shut out followed one at Luton last week, having kept 13 clean sheets in just the Premier League alone during his loan spell with Sheffield United last season.
Cole added: “I’m not going to be disrespectful to Sheffield United, but playing for Manchester United, you’ve always got to be on your toes.
“For 50-60 minutes you might not touch the ball, then all of a sudden you’ve got to produce a world class save.
“Henderson’s done that this evening so I think he’s proven to everyone he is a very good goalkeeper and David de Gea’s going to have a battle to stay on as no.1.”
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