Former Manchester United defender Rafael da Silva has backed his friend David de Gea to get over his penalty heartbreak and continue to be a top goalkeeper.
Rafael spent four years with De Gea at Old Trafford, winning the league title in 2013 – and witnessed first hand as the Spaniard overcame some early criticism after his move from Atletico Madrid to become one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
De Gea has won the club’s player of the year award on numerous occasions but there has been speculation about his future after the emergence of Dean Henderson. Indeed, it was the selection of Henderson as first choice that moved De Gea into the role of Europa League goalkeeper – and, from that position, he was criticised after failing to save any of the penalties and then missing the decisive kick himself in the shootout.
But Rafael – speaking exclusively to TalkOfTheDevils – has backed his former team-mate to get over what happened in Gdansk and return to his best form.
“I was so sad for him last week,” Rafael admitted. “David is a good friend, I spent a lot of time with him in Manchester. So to see what happened in the final, I was obviously very sad.
“As a supporter you see a missed penalty and feel the hurt of the shoot-out but you have to remember he is not a penalty taker. He’s a goalkeeper. It was definitely a sad moment and obviously he would have wanted to score… maybe it’s something that will stay with him, but, it’s not his job to score a penalty kick. He needs to remember that.”
Speculation continues to bubble about De Gea’s future, but Rafael believes that if he does move, it will be because of the situation with Henderson, and not as a consequence of the final – stressing that De Gea can overcome the difficult moment easily.
“Of course he has the mental strength to come through this and still be a key player for Manchester United,” says Rafael. “One hundred percent. David is a strong person, he has a strong mentality. The only thing I would say is that I’m not sure David could stay in Manchester being the second choice goalkeeper, but that’s because of how good a goalkeeper he is, not because of the penalties.”
Fabio and Rafael Da Silva’s autobiography – The Sunshine Kids – is now available for pre-order through Amazon and Pitch Publishing, ahead of its August release.