Ex-Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes he could have had Manuel Neuer when searching for a replacement for the retiring Edwin van der Sar in 2011. But he opted against the German for one very specific reason – David de Gea.
Neuer, who was then at Schalke before joining current club Bayern Munich, was Ferguson’s first choice at the time. But the legendary Old Trafford boss was ultimately convinced to go for de Gea instead after watching him in action…and with a little influence from his goalkeeping coach.
“Eric Steele had been scouting David de Gea for quite a while, but then Neuer came on the scene at Schalke,” Ferguson is quoted as saying by the Manchester Evening News. “I think Schalke would’ve been happy if we’d have gone and taken him.”
Indeed, United got a close look at Neuer in the closing stages of the 2010/11 campaign when they came up against him in goal for Schalke in the Champions League semi-finals.
Ferguson went on to add, “My problem was Eric, because he was adamant that we must take de Gea. I said ‘but Eric, the boy Neuer is the complete unit – he’s mature, his physique is unbelievable’, and he says ‘yes, but in three years’ time, de Gea will be better’.”
To that the Scot, who brought Peter Schmeichel to English football in 1991, replied, “that’s a statement”, and the key proved to be a subsequent scouting trip to Spain.
“Eric and I went out to watch him against Valencia away, and the things he’d been speaking about – his agility, his confidence, his speed – were evident,” Ferguson said of the Atletico Madrid product.
“Eric had been building a relationship with his parents and was so adamant, that I had to trust him. I’m glad I did, because he was right.”
Neuer was a 2014 Ballon d’Or finalist in and has been widely credited for redefining the parameters of modern goalkeeping over the last few years. But his form has been a little erratic of late, while de Gea seems to be getting better and better with each passing week.
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