Man United's David de Gea: Last season was a disaster but we're working hard to improve

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PERTH, Australia -- David de Gea has seen a lot at Manchester United. The Spain goalkeeper has been at Old Trafford for more than a decade and in that time has seen plenty of success and failure, as well as a number of managers come and go. Erik ten Hag is the eighth boss he has worked under, after spells with Sir Alex Ferguson, David Moyes, Ryan Giggs, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick.

De Gea was part of the last United team to win the Premier League title, under Ferguson in 2013, and also lifted the FA Cup in 2015, the League Cup in 2017 and the Europa League later the same year. Despite a relatively barren period since Ferguson retired, the goalkeeper has also won the club's Player of the Year award four times, including three in a row between 2014 and 2016.

In a wide-ranging interview in Perth during United's preseason tour of Australia, De Gea reflects on his time at Old Trafford, almost joining Real Madrid in 2015, the disappointment of last season and his hopes for the future.

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Q: You're about to start your 12th season at the club; how do you sum up your time at Old Trafford?

A: Like you say, it's been a long time in the club. I say already that it feels like my home, I love the club; I enjoy every moment: bad moments, good moments. I enjoy every time with this club and it's a privilege to be here.

Q: How do you reflect on last season?

A: For everyone it was a very tough season, embarrassing sometimes. Some games were a mess, a disaster. So we should learn from last season. That cannot happen again because it was tough, it was painful to be there, and we should not be losing games 4-0 or 5-0. It was unacceptable. Sometimes you have to feel pain to go up and keep going.

Q: Will the disappointment of last season act as motivation for the rest of the squad?

A: I hope so. I hope everyone reflects. I have seen some things and think about last season because it was a disaster. I think it's a good point to start, like, 'Guys, we cannot do the same as we did last season because it was a disaster.' I really hope we're going to play much better.

Q: Was it your lowest point at United?

A: Probably in the way we played, the way we conceded chances.

Q: Are you disappointed you haven't been able to win more trophies during your time here?

A: Of course, it's difficult to win things. I think teams are improving a lot, football is very tough and I think every team is very difficult to beat. Sometimes it's bad times. I've had bad times at clubs and good times. I've been in lots of situations in the club where we don't win as much as we want, but I love the club. I hope in the years that are coming we can change that. For sure we try to win something big for the club because I think we deserve it.

Q: You almost joined Real Madrid in 2015, do you ever feel like you could have won more at another club?

A: Winning or not winning, just being in this club means more than winning trophies. But of course, we want to win. We always want to win, but representing this club is bigger than any trophy.

Q: Real Madrid have won the Champions League four times since 2015 ...

A: I'm just thinking about Manchester. It's my home. I feel very good here. It's a privilege, it's an honour to be here at this club, it's one of the best things in my life to be a part of this club.

Q: You've had three weeks under Erik ten Hag. What is he like to work with?

A: He's very intense, everything he says is fully focused, 100 percent. Just in training he brings new things, new thoughts, so we need to adapt to him, but we have shown already in those three games we are pressing high, we won the ball, we want to keep the ball, dictate, we want to lead the game. So I think we are doing well; we are working really hard.

Q: What gives you confidence that he can succeed where others have failed?

A: I don't know. We need time to see and you never know the future, this is just the beginning. But for sure we are working well, the players are working really hard. I feel good energy in the team, more positivity, more focus, things just go day-by-day. We don't think about the future, just try and prepare for the first game in the league.

Q: Has he asked you to change your game at all?

A: No, not really. I mean, obviously, with different managers, you have to adapt to the way they want us to play. But I used to play like this in the national team for many years, so I'm comfortable to be honest. We want to build from the back, I want to be ready to give options to the players to play from the back and of course, be ready for the long balls. And the most important thing for me is saving shots, making the saves and helping the team.

Q: Do you feel confident playing out from the back?

A: Yeah. Of course, if you want to play from the back you need a good structure, you need a lot of options, especially from the guys who are at the back. Of course, that's fundamental, to have a lot of options and I think we're doing well. We showed against Crystal Palace we built from the back really well and scored some good goals.

Q: Are you looking forward to showing everyone that you can play like that?

A: I think I showed already. If you watch my games with the national team or when we played with Sir Alex at the beginning, you could see it, I don't need to show to anyone. I've been playing for many years. I will try my best; I will try to help the team and help us play. As always, I'm going to stay quiet, calm and try to show that to the team and play out from the back.

Q: You've got a contract until 2023 with the option of another year; have you spoken to the club about a new deal?

A: No, not yet. I haven't talked with anyone yet, but of course I would be really happy to be here for as long as they want, because I want to be here for more years.

Q: Would you like to stay here until the end of your career?

A: Yeah, if it's possible, of course. If they let me stay here, I will stay here, for sure. I'm really comfortable, really happy and hopefully, before I leave, we can win something.

Q: Would you need to see signs that the club is moving forward before signing a new contract?

A: We want to push forward, we want to improve. But, like I said, there are many teams at a very good level, they play very good football. This is the beginning so I hope we start properly and build something big and let's see if we can win something.

Q: You're one of the most senior players now, do you feel there are enough leaders in the group?

A: I think so. We all want the same: we want to win. Of course, some players are more experienced, more vocal in the game, shouting at the players. But it's about the team, it's not just about one or two players, it's about everyone being there, being focused, playing as a team and having passion about winning.

Q: Bruno Fernandes said recently that Ten Hag has brought back some discipline in the squad that he thought had been missing?

A: I agree. We needed more culture, a better culture of football, of just thinking about football, nothing else. With a new manager, we are in a good way. For sure, he is very focused on football and what we need, and the players feel the same, so I have good feelings.

Q: Fernandes said Ten Hag demands everyone is on time for training and team meetings ...

A: Of course, you cannot be late. You cannot be late. People who work in their jobs, you cannot be late. So I think you cannot be late for training, we cannot be late for the meetings, that's life, you have to be on-time and professional.

Q: Have you sensed previously that some players have not been focused?

A: I don't know. In general, you have to be more focused on your life, if you want to perform properly you have to be more focused at the top level.

Q: You've been United's Player of the Year four times. Jose Mourinho once said it's not a good sign if the goalkeeper is winning the award again and again?

A: Yeah, I totally agree! It's good for me, of course! I love to win trophies but I totally agree with what he said. It must be a striker, a midfielder, that's what happens, but for sure this season it's going to be another player or striker, for sure.

Q: How have you found competing with Dean Henderson [who has now joined Nottingham Forest on loan] for the last two seasons?

A: I think every time I've been in this club the guy who is on the bench wants to play, he wants to be No. 1. I always push myself, it doesn't matter who is on the bench or wants to be in my job, I just give my best all the time and try 100 percent.

Q: Did you ever question your own future at the time?

A: No, I was fine. As always I was training properly, show my qualities and try to help the team as much as I can.

Q: How do you look back on missing a penalty in the Europa League final shootout against Villarreal in 2021?

A: The season wasn't the best finish, but that's life sometimes. It was a bit strange to have to take the penalty but that happens in football sometimes. I played really well in the last months of the season, against Roma, against Granada. I was feeling great but it was a penalty. It doesn't say anything. It's just I missed a penalty, but I was feeling good towards the end of the season.

Q: We saw Sir Alex Ferguson put his arm around you when you came off the pitch in Gdansk ...

A: Like I say, sometimes life is like this. It's a penalty, that's it, of course it was a final, but keep working and next season show your best.

Q: What has to change for Man United to be successful again?

A: I think many things have to change. I think we were really poor last season, we played really bad, to be honest, but we are really improving. With the new manager, things are going really well. We are working really hard as a team, that's the most important thing. Let's see. Go day-by-day, try to work as hard as possible and try to improve.

Q: How far away do you think this squad is from challenging for the Premier League title?

A: I don't know, it's difficult to say. Two or three teams are at a very good level -- playing very well, very consistent -- so we need to try to get closer to them.

Q: Does it make it harder that it's Manchester City and Liverpool dominating at the moment?

A: It doesn't matter who is dominating the Premier League because we want to be there, fighting with anyone.

Q: It must be your dream to win another title here?

A: Of course. One, or two, or three; try to fight for the Champions League as well; cups. We have to fight for everything.