Manchester United are facing a goalkeeping crisis ahead of Tuesday's Premier League clash with Stoke at Old Trafford David de Gea called in sick and Anders Lindegaard left the training ground on crutches, according to the Daily Mail.
De Gea was surprisingly recalled to the United line-up in place of Lindegaard for Saturday's FA Cup defeat at Liverpool following a four-match absence, but the young Spaniard was widely criticised for another uncertain performance.
However, manager Sir Alex Ferguson's options narrowed dramatically on Monday morning as he was left without his first choice goalkeepers.
First, De Gea phoned to say that he was unwell and would not be coming in to train, then Lindegaard was injured during the session at Carrington and went home on crutches with his right foot in a protective boot.
Provided he has recovered, De Gea is expected to keep his place, but third-choice Ben Amos and Tomasz Kuszczak - who last played in May - are on standby.
It is the latest twist in United's goalkeeping saga this season.
Ferguson has been forced to defend De Gea, having paid Atletico Madrid £17.8 million in the summer to make him Edwin van der Sar's successor as No. 1 at Old Trafford.
It also established the 21-year-old as the most expensive goalkeeper in British football history.
But he has struggled to adapt to the English game since, which has contrasted sharply with the displays of 27-year-old Lindegaard, a £3.5 million signing from Norwegian club Aalesunds.
The Spaniard has taken flak for his efforts to clear Liverpool’s corner that led to Daniel Agger’s opener on Saturday.
Ex-United captain Roy Keane said the 21-year-old was at fault for the Kop’s winner.
“De Gea looked a bit nervous,” said Keane. “When you have a nervous goalkeeper it can go through the whole team. He looked really nervous.
“He has to stick his chest out and say, I am number one today, I am going to produce a big performance.
“Goalkeeper is the most important position at Manchester United. That is why United got Edwin van der Sar at 34. United are missing that experience and presence.
“United will be kicking themselves. They have conceded shocking goals.
“You work all week on your tactics and your team shape. It was a direct kick (for the winner). Carroll is 6ft 4in, you expect him to win the header but Patrice Evra should smell the danger.
“I think he gets caught out in a lot of the bigger games. He should tuck in. He has let Kuyt get the wrong side of him. I bet the boy couldn’t believe his luck.”
And former England defender Gareth Southgate joined in the criticism of the keeper.
“You have to think back to when United had Schmeichel and Van der Sar,” he said. “They were such an important part of teams that won the league.
“Joe Hart looks like he might do that for Manchester City this year. It could end up being the difference between the sides.”
Ferguson blamed United’s defenders crowding De Gea for his slip up and Reds striker Michael Owen also defended in the Spanish youngster on Twitter.
“Both goals were avoidable. We didn’t do well for the first one. We had too many defenders around the goalkeeper. The second was a lucky break,” said Ferguson.
“Don’t agree with all this negativity towards De Gea,” said Owen.
“Admittedly he has made a couple of mistakes this season but listening to some people you would think he had a nightmare. I’m not having either goal was his fault.
“The problem is, once you get labelled, mud sticks and now any tiny mistake is magnified. Other keepers make similar mistakes and nothing gets said.
“The ball was on the six-yard box for the first goal. He has to go for it. He also needs to watch the flight of the ball.
“There are then six players in front of him. There is nothing he could do. In my opinion two bad goals to give away but to blame everything on the keeper is totally wrong. The lad will be a top keeper, he is only young.
“Harsh to blame him for everything. The fans know he needs their support, his confidence needs boosting. I’m sure he will repay that support for years to come.”
Little wonder De Gea fell sick.
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