David de Gea has committed his long-term future to Manchester United – but the Red Devils look set to see a different player over the next four years.
After putting pen to paper on his extension this week, De Gea said: “I’ve changed a lot, on and off the field. I’ve been fortunate enough to have great managers and coaches, who’ve helped me to improve a great deal as a player.”
Whilst he did not directly mention current boss, it is clear Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the man responsible for the single biggest shift in De Gea’s style since he arrived at Old Trafford as a fresh-faced youngster back in 2011.
“From the moment he arrived here, he showed his faith in me, right from minute one,” De Gea said of Solskjaer this week.
That faith involved trusting De Gea to instantly adapt to his new style of play, which all starts with the man between the sticks.
De Gea has been asked to play out from the back in a manner he has not had to do in the Premier League before, largely abandoning his long kicking game in favour of short passes out of defence.
The shift was instant.
In Jose Mourinho’s last game as Manchester United manager, De Gea attempted to distribute the ball long 21 times, playing just three short passes.
The following week, with Solskjaer in caretaker charge against Cardiff and having spent just a few days with his players, he went long just nine times with 11 short passes, all but one to centre-backs Phil Jones and Victor Lindelof.
It was a clear pattern followed before and after the beginning of the Solskjaer era.
In the 2017/18 season, the last full season under Mourinho, De Gea averaged 7.04 successful long passes each Premier League game, the previous season even higher at 8.27.
At a success rate of less than 70% during both seasons, he was attempting to play out at range more than 10 times per game.
So far this season, under Solskjaer, he has made just 2.97 successful long passes per Premier League outing, attempting to do so less than four times per game.
Solskjaer has required patience with De Gea.
The keeper, inevitably, was the one in the firing line.
Yet as Solskjaer showed faith in him, the feeling was reciprocated, with reports suggesting De Gea felt a duty to stick by his boss when it came to committing his future.
In pre-season, Solskjaer was reported to have sent his number one for extra training sessions with the ball at his feet to improve his short passing from the back.
So far, it has worked.