De Gea was battling with Dean Henderson for the Manchester United gloves last season and Solskjaer has revealed the Spaniard called him over the summer and joined pre-season training early to stake his claim
With the promising Dean Henderson breathing down De Gea’s neck, the Spaniard headed home for the birth of his child in March and allowed the academy product to put together a run of games in which he impressed.
De Gea then opted to ensure he wasted no time in staking his claim to regain first-choice status, something he unquestionably held for almost 10 years at Old Trafford.
“He did call me in the summer to end his summer holiday earlier and come back and start his pre-season before,” the Red Devils boss said during his pre-match press conference ahead of their match against Aston Villa on Saturday.
“He wanted to be ready, the best possible version of himself.”
The four-time Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year found himself on the bench for the final few Premier League games last season and was given the Europa League fixtures to play, helping United reach the final.
But it was in the penalty shoot-out against eventual winners Villarreal that De Gea failed to save 11 spot-kicks before missing his own effort and joining up with Spain for the European championships, being second fiddle to Athletic Bilbao’s Unai Simon.
Red Devils supporters were livid with the stopper for his lack of saves but an injury to Henderson while with England and the 24-year-old’s a subsequent struggle with Covid-19 allowed De Gea to retake the gloves for the start of this season.
OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
The goalkeeper has shone in 2021-22, saving Mark Noble’s penalty in the 95th minute last weekend to secure all three points for United at West Ham.
It was his first spot-kick save since an FA Cup semi-final in April 2016 against then-Everton striker Romelu Lukaku after failing to save the 40 which came his way over the next five years.
“Last season was a challenging one, he didn’t play as many games because Dean came in and did very well,” Solskjaer, who has always defended De Gea as being a top cat, explained.
“David has really worked, focused, physically and mentally he’s better and when you feel you’ve done the work, personal best, a few physical tests, it gives you more confidence and motivation.”
The Norwegian, who also brought goalkeeper Tom Heaton back to the club during the summer transfer window, added: “He plays behind a strong back four but to play in front of David when he’s in this form is good for them.”
Is De Gea back to his best? Comment your thoughts below.
Henderson started Wednesday’s third-round League Cup loss to West Ham, when the Red Devils squared an opportunity of a trophy.
But De Gea still believes United can be successful this campaign, with the club “at a good point.”
“We signed good players [in the summer] and we already had a good squad,” De Gea told Sky Sports. “We are there at the top of the league fighting for every game, of course it is hard, it is the best league in the world.
“Every game is difficult, we want to fight for the big trophies, try to fight for the Premier League, the Champions League, for everything and I think we have the squad and the players and we have the fans with us so it’s amazing.
“I think the club is at a good point,” he stated.
“I think there are top teams fighting for the league, like always in the Premier League. So let’s see what happens, be focused on the next games and just prepare properly and put everything on the pitch and in training.”