The Manchester United goalkeeper found a familiar face when he needed it most.
Alex Ferguson knew that David de Gea could do with an arm around his shoulder after Wednesday night’s Europa League final heartbreak.
It’s unfair to refer to a goalkeeper as the villain in a penalty shootout but De Gea will feel as though he let his teammates down after missing the 22nd spot-kick in a marathon shootout against Villarreal.
De Gea failed to save any of Villarreal’s 11 penalties and his effort from 12 yards was saved by opposite number Geronimo Rulli to ensure the La Liga side would be lifting the Europa League trophy.
DAVID DE GEA MISSES! ❌
— Virgin Media Sport (@VMSportIE) May 26, 2021
Alex Ferguson and David de Gea
While the Villarreal celebrations kicked into overdrive in Gdansk, Ferguson knew he had to be there for his former goalkeeper after he’d made his way down to pitch level for the presentation ceremony.
The Athletic reports that Ferguson waited for De Gea outside the tunnel and embraced him before he offered some words of encouragement to the ‘keeper he signed as a 20-year-old.
Ferguson and De Gea then made their way down the tunnel side-by-side and the classy gesture from the legendary Scot likely meant the world to the devastated goalkeeper.
Ferguson signed De Gea from Atletico Madrid in 2011 and the Spaniard arrived with the unenviable task of attempting to fill the boots of the retiring Edwin van der Sar.
De Gea endured a difficult start to life with the Red Devils but he was always supported by Ferguson and he eventually silenced the doubters.
De Gea recalled a moment at a 2013 press conference when Ferguson announced how the shot-stopper had started repaying his faith in him.
“Ferguson brought me into the press conference in the Bernabeu. He told everyone, the British media, the Spanish media, that I had a special talent,” De Gea told the Daily Mail in 2018.
“I remember what he said exactly. He compared me to a toddler taking their first steps forward. You wobble, get up, wobble, get up again and then you walk.
“Ferguson ended that press conference saying, ‘The boy is walking now’. Ferguson sat next to me and told the world how much he believed in me. I felt emboldened. Ferguson was very patient with me. He did not shout and was never too harsh. He knew I needed time and trust.”