LONDON (Reuters) – Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho labelled goalkeeper David de Gea as the best in the world after the Spaniard equalled a Premier League record during his side’s exhilarating 3-1 victory at Arsenal on Saturday.
De Gea made 14 saves — several of them exceptional — as Arsenal threw everything at United after conceding twice in the opening 11 minutes in a sizzling clash at the Emirates Stadium.
“I told him after the match, what I saw today was the best from a goalkeeper in the world. You need the keeper to be there for you when the team needs him,” Mourinho, whose side closed the gap on leaders Manchester City to five points, said.
De Gea saved twice in quick succession from Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac shortly before halftime and somehow kept out United striker Romelu Lukaku’s miskick when trying to clear from a corner.
After the break he continued to thwart Arsenal’s best efforts, making an astonishing double save to first keep out Alexandre Lacazette’s shot, then stuck out his leg to deny Alexis Sanchez from point-blank range.
The only other goalkeeper to make so many saves in a Premier League match are Tim Krul for Newcastle United (v Spurs in November 2013) and Vito Mannone for Sunderland (v Chelsea in April 2014).
“De Gea was man of the match by a clear mile,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.
Two goals from Jesse Lingard and one from Antonio Valencia earned United the victory — Mourinho’s first away against a top-six club since he arrived at Old Trafford.
And the nature of United’s vibrant display answered the critics who have accused Mourinho of ‘parking the bus’ in away games against the sides challenging for top-four places.
“I think it was a fantastic game,” Mourinho, whose United sides had managed only one goal in their previous seven away to Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, told reporters. “If I was in the stands or at home I would have been sad for the game to finish.
“In my case it was different because I wanted to win, I wanted the game to finish. It was two very good teams going through different moments of the game.
“We managed to start the game with intensity and being aggressive and with that desire to play in their half.”
The fly in the ointment for Mourinho was a straight red card for Paul Pogba, which will rule the French powerhouse out of next weekend’s crunch derby with Manchester City.
While his ‘studs up’ tackle on Bellerin in the 75th minute was a poor one, Mourinho felt some of the Arsenal players had hounded referee Andre Marriner to send Pogba off.
“I didn’t see the tackle,” Mourinho said. “I just know that Paul is frustrated and a bit disappointed with his (France) colleague (Laurent Koscielny) for his reaction because everyone knows Paul is a clean player and it was not his intention.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)