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Interview: Manchester United’s David de Gea on returning to Atlético de Madrid in the UEFA Champions League round of 16


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The UEFA Champions League round of 16 is taking David de Gea back to his roots, with the Manchester United goalkeeper set to face his old side, Atlético de Madrid, for the first time since he left the Spanish capital for Old Trafford in 2011.

De Gea forced his way into the first team at Atlético during a glittering spell that brought the club the 2009/10 UEFA Europa League and 2010 UEFA Super Cup titles under coach Quique Sánchez Flores. However, if the memories will be flooding back as the 31-year-old returns to the Spanish capital, he insists it will be business as usual come kick-off.

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On going back to Atlético with United

De Gea against Spanish clubs

I like the fact I was born in Madrid, but at the end of the day, it’s just a city. Now I feel as if I’m from Manchester; I just feel like anyone else from Manchester. Where you are loved and welcomed is your home. I’ve been here for many years and, obviously, anything can happen in life, in the world of football, but honestly I don’t see myself away from Manchester United.

Of course, I’m going back home [for this tie], I’m going back to the club that gave me the opportunity to be who I am today. But this is just another match. Everyone wants to play well, we want to win, it is a Champions League match. Obviously, I wish Atlético all the best, but I don’t know whether the fact we’re playing them is a good or bad omen. Everyone is going there to win, especially me.

On breaking into the Atlético side at 19

Atlético's 2010 Europa League glory

Atlético’s 2010 Europa League glory

At that moment, I was kind of the third-choice goalkeeper [behind Sergio Asenjo and Roberto]. I have always believed in myself, I used to train a lot and just tried to prove: “I am here, I may be young but I’m good enough”. I tried to do my best, and then, it was fortunate for me but unfortunate for Roberto that he got injured and I got the chance to prove that I was good enough.

When Quique [Sánchez Flores] arrived, the team changed. We won game after game, and there was a moment when Asenjo and I were both available and he chose me. I played nearly every game. We made it to the final of the UEFA Europa League, and we won it. We also made it to the final of the Copa del Rey. We lost, but at least we made it to the final. And then we won the UEFA Super Cup against that great Inter side.

On being good with his feet

All of Manchester United's group stage goals

All of Manchester United’s group stage goals

What a goalkeeper has to do is to stop goals going in; that’s the most important thing. And then, if you have the talent or the quality to be able to play with your feet and have good vision, that’s phenomenal. I feel very comfortable playing with my feet, playing out from the back, following the lead of my team, but it depends on the coach and the style of play.

[With Spain we] play with a very high defensive line. I’ve played this way since I was in the youth teams. [At United] we try to play with a high line, but some players are very fast and very talented, and if the pressing is not good enough, you can have problems at the back. But for the goalkeeper, you need to be off your line, looking out for any potential pass in behind to be able to help your defence.

On his taste for heavy metal

David de Gea celebrating Atlético's 2009/10 UEFA Europa League success at the Neptuno fountain in Madrid

David de Gea celebrating Atlético’s 2009/10 UEFA Europa League success at the Neptuno fountain in MadridGetty Images

It started when I was a child. I used to spend my summers in Alicante with my parents. There were some other boys around, a bit older than me, and they would listen to this kind of music, so I’d listen too. I love heavy metal and rock. It really motivates me. I love Slipknot, Avenged Sevenfold, System of a Down. I also like Bullet for My Valentine. I love a bit of everything, anything you can think of – [Frank] Sinatra, for example. I love Spanish music as well. Honestly, I listen to everything.

Am I a good dancer? Well… I’m not a bad mover given how big I am. I have a good sense of rhythm. I don’t dance like Michael Jackson, but I’m OK, honestly. I’m a nice dancer; a standard one really: decent.

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