• Sir Alex Ferguson praises Spaniard for his powers of recovery
• Conceded poor winner in defeat to Blackburn in last meeting
Sir Alex Ferguson has praised David de Gea's reaction to the poor performances which prompted Manchester United's manager to drop the goalkeeper at the turn of the year.
There will be no quibbles with the selection of De Gea to face Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Monday night, but the last time the Spaniard faced Blackburn he seemed well on the way to joining Massimo Taibi and Mark Bosnich in the list of goalkeepers who never remotely justified Ferguson's faith or transfer fee.
The 21-year-old, whose £18m signing from Atlético Madrid made him comfortably the Premier League's most expensive goalkeeper, had been chosen to start against Steve Kean's team despite the fact that Anders Lindegaard had played in both previous games, against Fulham and Wigan, which had been won by a collective scoreline of 10-0.
However, on New Year's Eve, Blackburn won 3-2 at Old Trafford and De Gea was at fault for two of the goals. First, he was beaten at his near post by Yakubu Aiyegbeni and then missed his punch at a corner, allowing the Blackburn defender, Grant Hanley, not one but two headers to score the winner.
But for Lindegaard suffering an ankle ligament injury in January, it is debatable whether De Gea would have won his place back. The Dane, who kept five clean sheets in his seven Premier League games, has suffered a further setback in his rehabilitation programme, although Ferguson expects him to return before the end of the season. However, this time ousting De Gea will be rather more problematic. Since regaining his place for the 2-1 defeat at Liverpool that saw United knocked out of the FA Cup, he has been increasingly impressive. The last six league games have been won and, significantly, the last three have seen De Gea keep a clean sheet.
"He got a grip of the situation," said Ferguson. "He did not let the mistakes get to him and now he is playing with confidence which is a great factor for any goalkeeper. The area where he has been criticised has been in dealing with aerial balls into the box. That last corner kick Blackburn had at Old Trafford, he should have dealt with that better. He knew that at the time and it is a situation he has addressed.
"He stood up to the situation; he knew it was a challenge. It took him time to adjust to the different ways of the English game and it showed. But the other night, he produced one or two terrific punches when Fulham put the ball in the box at the start of the second half. We knew he had the ability and this is what we have seen."
Ferguson compared De Gea's determination with the bloody-minded response of the Blackburn manager, Steve Kean, to the supporters' demonstrations against him that had reached a crescendo just before he took his side to Old Trafford. That match was to prove a turning point of sorts. Blackburn have won five and drawn three of their past 13 matches.
"He [Kean] has held his dignity very, very well," said Ferguson, who because of his closeness to Sam Allardyce, the man Kean replaced at Ewood Park, might not be seen as a natural ally. "He deserves 100% praise from everyone, including from a lot of his own supporters, who I am sure are saying 'I wish I hadn't done that', because he has certainly shown his mettle."