When David de Gea arrived as a slender, shy Spaniard back in 2011, questions were asked about whether he could adapt to the physical nature of the Premier League.
His early performances suggested that scepticism was well placed but over the past 14 months, his transformation has been nothing short of spectacular.
A brilliant individual performance against Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabeu last year was considered by many as a turning point but against Arsenal, he completed that transformation from boy to man.
Rewind to 25 August 2012. Manchester United 3-2 Fulham.
De Gea went to punch a cross clear but his failure to exert his physical presence led to a Nemanja Vidic own goal. If a goalkeeper ever comes for the ball, he has to get it. Simple. It doesn’t matter who is in their way, they get the ball.
10 November 2013. Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal.
De Gea went to punch a cross clear and did so with real power and dominance, leaving an unfortunate Vidic flattened on the turf in doing so. He had no intention of doing that to Vidic but getting the ball out of danger was his prerogative. Unfortunately for our captain, he was in the way.
It was the perfect example to encompass his complete transformation. Two almost identical situations whose similarities stop at those involved. The outcomes couldn’t have been more different.
Named the best goalkeeper in the Premier League last year, De Gea has continued where he left off last season and you have to remember he is still 23. There are only a few goalkeepers over the years (Buffon and Casillas, for example) who have been a dominant No. 1 at a top European club at such a young age.
The most exciting thing is that this is only the start for De Gea. With every season that passes, he will get better and hopefully he will stay at Old Trafford for a long time so we can witness that growth first hand.