DAVID DE GEA will reach a special milestone at Villa Park — passing Peter Schmeichel’s number of appearances in goal for Manchester United.
The Spanish keeper equalled Schmeichel’s total of 398 in Saturday’s 5-2 win over Bournemouth and is set to eclipse the Dane against Aston Villa.
And barring injury, he should hit the magical 400 mark next Monday against Southampton — although his special achievement will be announced to an empty stadium at Old Trafford.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says De Gea’s longevity is testament to former goalkeeping coach Eric Steele’s faith in him when others doubted whether he was up to playing in the Premier League.
Solskjaer said: “David has had some fantastic seasons here and the next one is his tenth.
“He’s proven Eric Steele right that we believed in him. He had a tough ride early on, physically, in England.
“But he has been the best goalkeeper in the world for the last nine or ten years and he’s still keen to learn.
“He’s working really hard in training.”
Yet De Gea, 29, has come in for criticism this season due to some high-profile blunders.
In his first game back after lockdown, he let in a soft goal from Steven Bergwijn in the 1-1 draw against Tottenham.
And last weekend some were critical he allowed Junior Stanislas to score at his near post.
It has prompted talk of Dean Henderson becoming the new No 1 after his successful loan spell at Sheffield United.
But Solskjaer still has faith in De Gea, who has recorded ten league clean sheets this season, three behind Golden Glove table-toppers Nick Pope of Burnley and Liverpool’s Alisson.
The ex-Atletico Madrid star, who joined in the summer of 2011 for £17.8million, is still some way off Alex Stepney’s club goalkeeping record.
He made 539 appearances from 1966-1978.