‘Ole’s team is softer than a muffin!’ – De Gea let down by Man Utd defence, says his former coach

A man who has has seen the Spanish goalkeeper’s qualities up close thinks he has been unfairly criticised for his performances at Old Trafford

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United team “is softer than a muffin” according to ex-Spain U21 coach Gabino Rodriguez, who insists that David de Gea is being let down by the Red Devils defence.

De Gea endured another inconsistent campaign at Old Trafford in 2020-21 and saw his place between the sticks come under threat from Dean Henderson, who returned to the club last summer after a loan spell at Sheffield United.

United ultimately extended their trophyless run to four years with De Gea coming in for criticism after a nightmare showing in their Europa League final defeat to Villarreal, but Rodriguez has jumped to the defence of the under-fire goalkeeper.

What’s been said?

Rodriguez, who coached De Gea while he was playing for Spain’s U21s, feels Solskjaer’s lack of tactical nous has left the 30-year-old shot-stopper exposed.

“I always believe the team is a true reflection of the character of its coach. Look at the one led by Sir Alex Ferguson and that would show no mercy,” Rodriguez told The Sun.

“Ole’s team is softer than a muffin and David is suffering the consequences of the defensive frailties.

“You need to protect your best asset in the team, but there is just an uncontrolled mess between midfield and defence with gaps. Basically Ole’s team has a brutal defensive weakness. The two centre-backs are too slow, they are not commanding and other teams are well aware of it.

“The big problem is Solskjaer’s tactical organisation. United’s defensive deficiencies are undervaluing De Gea and Ole just doesn’t convince me. In the old days, Roy Keane and Paul Scholes not only dictated games, but did the dirty work and were the defensive backbone. In Ole’s team, Edinson Cavani is the best defender!”

De Gea’s record for United last term

De Gea featured in 36 games in all competitions for the Red Devils last season, but only managed to record 12 clean sheets.

The Spaniard conceded 46 goals in total including one in the Europa League final, during which he also unable to keep out any of Villarreal’s penalties in the shootout – meaning he has now failed to save any of the last 40 spot-kicks he has faced.

What else did De Gea’s old coach say?

Rodriguez went on to insist that De Gea deserves to continue as Spain’s No 1 goalkeeper, amid calls for Athletic Bilbao’s Unai Simon to replace him for this summer’s European Championships.

“Everybody in Spain is speaking about Simon, but for me De Gea is the undisputed No 1 goalkeeper for the Euros,” he said.

“David is an icon in Spain, he’s had the same impact the legendary Luis Arconada had in his playing days.

“His career says everything about how good he is — but it is very easy for others to start talking nonsense about him when things are going wrong. Don’t forget he’s still only 30 so has plenty of time ahead of him. He has just been suffering because of others.”

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