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The strange case of De Gea and Lindegaard – why rotation policy is not a keeper

The concept of a “starting XI” is growing increasingly thin in modern football, as competitions take their toll and managers opt to rotate their players in a bid to have them fresh when it matters the most. Ask any fan of any club around the country and most will struggle to name more than six or seven players that are consistently in the starting line-up.

On the other hand, the large majority of people will name a goalkeeper before any other players. A luxury that Manchester United fans can’t afford, as Sir Alex Ferguson continues to rotate David De Gea and Anders Lindegaard, game after game.

Perhaps not surprisingly, United have already conceded 21 goals in the Premier League after 15 games. While injuries have blighted Vidic, Smalling, Ferdinand and Jones, the lack of a well-oiled routine that derives from having a settled defensive unit has been evident.

De Gea was widely criticised last season in the early months of his United career for a perceived lack of physicality and was dropped after a 1-1 draw at Stoke, before resuming his duties against Liverpool only to be dropped again after a 1-0 win at Everton. After missing three games on the back of a 3-2 defeat at home against Blackburn, the Spaniard looked to have made the goalkeeping position his own, only to be benched again this season.

A harsh decision perhaps, but what about Lindegaard who conceded only four times in the eight league games he started last season? Those numbers would be enough to guarantee him a starting spot at pretty much any other Premier League club.

De Gea and Lindegaard are a rarity in world football, for most teams – particularly clubs the size of United – have an established number 1, who’s guaranteed a spot in the starting XI bar injuries or suspensions. Take Chelsea or Manchester City, for example. Peter Cech has started 23 games so far this season, while Joe Hart has appeared 20 times. In comparison, De Gea was the first choice goalkeeper in only 12 games, while Lindegaard was given the nod on 10 occasions.

When compared with the statistics of two of the greatest United keepers of the last fifty years, these numbers paint an even clearer picture. In his eight seasons at Old Trafford, Peter Schmeichel averaged 49.75 games per season – an extraordinary number of games, even bearing in mind that for his first three seasons the league was spread over 42 matches – while Edwin Van der Sar clocked up 44.3 games per season.

Van der Sar’s numbers are even more intriguing, for he joined the club when the rotation policy had already been applied to keepers, with the Dutchman between the posts in league and European games, while Ben Foster and Tomasz Kusczack deputised for him in domestic cups.

United undoubtedly possess two high-calibre goalkeepers, something that can’t be said for their Premier League rivals or, in fact, for most European clubs. The problem is that while in other areas of the pitch a rotation policy generates competition,directly influencing the players’ performances, in the goalkeeping department it can only generate confusion, not to mention that it could force one of the two players to seek fortune with another club.

Enough of the twisting, Fergie. Time for a real number one now.

Dan (@MUFC_dan87)




  1. Stephen

    4 December 2012 at 13:01

    I agree for me rotating keepers is madness, especially with an unsettled back four.
    Lndegaard is a decent back up, but no more. De Gea was a gamble, he is young and needs time to develop. Old Trafford is not a place for rookie’s, but he has ability.
    For me loan him up in England for a season or so, being in Given fir a stop gap, which will allow the Spaniard to learn and settle.

    • The_Philosopher

      5 December 2012 at 08:27

      @Stephen: We don’t have the time or the luxury to loan De Gea out.

      Real Madrid are sniffing around for a long term replacement for Iker Casillas and they are strongly considering De Gea. We need to let De Gea know his future is here. We can’t afford to let him have doubts about his future.

      We must blood him now. He must just get thrown into the deep end and learn to stand on his own two feet now.

      Lindegard needs to make a decision about his future; whether he is gonna stay on as United’s second choice keeper (which I would welcome. He is great back up) or whether he’s gonna go somewhere else where he can be the no.1 keeper.

      De Gea is our long term number 1. Lets pour all our time and resources into bringing him up to speed. Stop the madness. Stop rotating!

      • Stephen

        5 December 2012 at 08:36

        @The_Philosopher: Casillas is Reals captain and is only 31, what is De Gea going to sit on the bench for 8 years?
        We have invested so much money on the young Spaniard. He will make errors which he has done since he has been at the club. All I am trying to do is let him develop at his own pace. Some keepers take more time than others. What doesn’t help is the chopping and changing of the back 4, his lack of English and been pulled in and out of the team.

  2. Ninpo

    4 December 2012 at 13:34

    Are you mad Stephen? Given can’t even get into the Villa first team, he’s overrated and not remotely as good as De Gea. De Gea should be starting, end of.

    • Stephen

      4 December 2012 at 14:12

      @Ninpo: Really, this is also Aston Villa who are fihting relagation who won’t pick a £24m striker.
      De Gea looks at times like little boy lost, Given is still only 36 and has Premiership experience.
      So no I am not mad, De Gea has struggled, he has abilty but needs time to develop at his own pace. If he fails it could break him mentally, for me he will get there but he is not United quality yet.

      • AS

        4 December 2012 at 15:32

        @Stephen: Given compared to De Gea is nowhere near the same level. He is now an average shot stopper, nothing more, and he is arguably worse than De Gea at set pieces. It would be a terrible mistake.

        • Stephen

          4 December 2012 at 15:40

          @AS: He has experience at big clubs, De Gea is at times very accident prone. He looks short of confidence and struggles with the physical side of the this league.
          I have no doubt he will come could, but he needs time to learn and develop.
          Given would be a short term fix, also he would be a good back up if De Gea did progress.

      • Redrich

        5 December 2012 at 02:50

        @Stephen: Stephen, he doesn’t need the further indignation of being loaned out to a team, that lets face it, would expose him and his weaknesses even more than our horrible back line has already.
        Weaning him in with a select game here and there will pay dividends in the long run – and lets remember that DDG and AL can only be held responsible for a very small percentage of the goals conceded so far.
        Rotating the goalie is unusual, I agree, but so is spending 17m for a 20 year old from Spain. If we’ve ventured so far, lets try to make it work!!

        • Stephen

          5 December 2012 at 08:40

          @Redrich: Rich, that is the logical solution. It is like when Schmeichel left United, we dithered with two goalkeepers neither being quite good enough. United is an unforgiving club for keepers, he need to either have great experience, or have great confidence. De Gea has great ability, but he has little experience and looks nervous.
          I do honestly think he will come good, but the team may suffer in him getting there.

      • The_Philosopher

        5 December 2012 at 08:40

        @Stephen: Stephen give De Gea a break.

        He is a quality keeper. He came into the side as a young man barely out of his teens, under massive pressure. You don’t think thats tough? You don’t think that can be unnerving for a young player? And the british media didn’t help either.

        His mistakes are a result of the immense pressure he is under. They are not a reflection of his ability or lack there-of

        In time he will settle and be world class.

        Even Johnny Evans looked a lost cause but grew as he played more games consistently.

        Shay Given is good I will agree with you on that but don’t write De Gea off. He will be a world great.

        We must stick with De Gea. Keeping faith with him now while he is still not fully fledged will reap big benefits later.

        • Stephen

          5 December 2012 at 10:54

          @The_Philosopher: Eh, when have I given him a hard time? I am stating facts mate, you need to read what I write better 🙄
          I have said he has great ability but is young, doesn’t speak English and this causes mistakes.
          When have I written him off, I am offering solutions for him to have the time he needs to develop, as well as helping the side.
          You speculate about him going to Real, because what the Mail ran a story a few weeks back? Jeez, all I am saying is he makes mistakes, these are the facts not speculation.
          I DO think he has a long term future, all I am trying to do is ensure firstly it is with us, secondly we don’t suffer while he learns.

  3. RMJ

    4 December 2012 at 15:19

    So far this season, neither de gea or Lindergard have been as bad as people have made it out to be. The main issue is like mentioned by Stephen is with the personal ahead of our keepers especially Rio who has regressed alarmingly and playing Carrick in more games than not. And often times the defense is under crazy assault due to lack of any game control leaving them more exposed than ever before.

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  5. Muadh

    4 December 2012 at 19:53

    De Gea had a rough start, true. But he didn’t make any mistakes this season, and proved to be the best of all the options we have. He deserves to be a regular starter. Loaning him out is a ridiculous joke.

  6. Opti

    4 December 2012 at 20:54

    Dav’ De Gea, De Gea
    What ever will be, What ever will be,
    We’re going to win the League,
    Dav’ De Gea, De Gea

    oooooooooooooooooh! 😆

  7. Redrich

    4 December 2012 at 21:08

    Ferguson went for a very young and relatively inexperienced keeper in DDG and so it’s not surprising to me that he has struggled with his form. It’s also difficult for the lad to come into a league that tries to terrorize goalies on set pieces.
    Lets not forget that Schmeichel was 28 when he joined United and VDS was 35, so De Gea needs much more time to mature into a quality keeper, and keeping him in the firing line when he’s not performing well, will only shatter his confidence. I see this as a way to protect the boy until he gets better.
    What he needs to do is learn how to handle himself and not get bullied – in short he needs to command the PA much better than he has so far. I think he will get bolder as time goes on – in the meantime SAF has to pick a team that has the best chance to win games and to edge DDG along carefully.

  8. Redrich

    5 December 2012 at 05:08

    Who thinks Citeh threw the game against Dortmand? The idea of them playing Thursday night games against rabid opposition just doesn’t seem possible and not a credible notion for their bigger ambition of dominating Manchester.

    The difference between the ideologies of these two clubs is plain to see. For us, it’s a continuous of a proud tradition. For them, it’s clearly a cynical (and far fetched) belief that Job 1 is to usurp their neighbors and gain an undeserved foot hold in a territory that has never belonged to them.

    The game on Sunday is, frankly, a time when this club draws a clear line in the sand. A time when the hero’s among the wage earners show up and defend their ground with commitment and valor – a stand and a statement. We don’t need any excuses for how injuries and inexperience has hurt us, we need our men to show up and play out of their gourds – for the sake of the club, our future and us, the adoring fans.

  9. The_Philosopher

    5 December 2012 at 09:26

    De Gea is first choice.

    Lets just stick with him.

    Lindegaard must make a decision: United’s bench or someone else’s first team.

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