David de Gea has thanked former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson for his backing during his difficult start to life at the club.
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The 22-year-old goalkeeper was signed by Ferguson for £18 million in 2011 but struggled to cement a first-team place in his opening 18 months at Old Trafford, with Anders Lindegaard often picked ahead of him.
However, De Gea went on to help United win the Premier League title last season and was selected in the PFA Team of the Year. And the Spaniard believes Ferguson merits much of the credit for his improvement.
He told the Daily Telegraph: “The faith that he showed in me at all times was very important. To know that he was behind me all the time and backing me up was great, and it was probably one of the reasons that I’ve continued to improve, that confidence he showed in me. The PFA thing was something I wasn’t expecting at all so that was really special.
“It was a little bit tough and a little bit difficult right at the beginning. You’re moving to a new country and a new league, coming from a different style of football so it was difficult at first but two years really is a long time in football and I feel totally at home and relaxed, totally settled in.”
New United manager David Moyes dismissed goalkeeping coach Eric Steele, who had a close relationship with De Gea, earlier in the summer, and replaced him with Chris Woods, who had performed the same job at Everton.
And De Gea said: “You’re going to miss someone that you worked with side by side every day for two years. He was always there, always giving me advice and looking to improve things.
“Things have been great with the new goalkeeping coach, Chris Woods. He’s great, a really laid-back-kind-of-guy, very calm. Every training session is 100% but we have a lot of fun and I’m enjoying it.”