By Greg Stobart | UK Correspondent
Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel has hit out at the "terrible" treatment of David de Gea and believes the Spanish goalkeeper will become the club’s No.1 for the next 20 years.
De Gea, 21, endured a difficult start to life in English football and was heavily criticised in the media after making some high profile errors following his £18.3 million (€21m) move from Atletico Madrid last summer.
But the Spain Under-21 international has made some fine saves in recent weeks - most notably against Chelsea and Norwich - to win United points and keep Sir Alex Ferguson’s side neck-and-neck with rivals Manchester City in the race for the Premier League title.
Schmeichel, who spent eight years at Old Trafford, says he felt for De Gea during his difficult first few months in England but has praised the youngster’s character in proving his ability.
"The media decided before he even played his first game that they were going to absolutely hammer him," Schmeichel told Goal.com at Carlsberg’s headquarters in Copenhagen at an event to mark 100 days until the start of Euro 2012. "That was a way of having a dig at Sir Alex.
"I thought it was terrible. To be 20 years of age in a different country, not even speaking the language and playing for the biggest club in the world, and to be singled out in that way.
"It’s not what England is all about, it’s not what I had experienced with England. I felt really sorry for him because England for me is all about fair play. English people are the nicest you can ever meet and I just didn’t recognise English people treating someone like him in that way.
"Any beginning is difficult but when you’re opening the newspaper every day and it’s all about how bad you are, sometimes even you begin to believe that.
"It takes enormous character and enormous mental strength to work your way through that - but he’s done that. He’s convinced people that he is a good goalkeeper.
"When Anders [Lindegaard] comes back from injury, it’s going to be interesting to see what Fergie does then. I’m pretty sure that nothing has changed in his mind, that De Gea has been brought in to be No.1 now, next year and the next 20.
"I have no idea if anything has changed but that was the idea in the summer. If you look at De Gea’s performances in the last month, I think he will be really happy with what he’s seen."
Schmeichel won five Premier League titles during his United career and believes De Gea’s recent form will have a big impact as the current side battle with City, who lead the table by two points with 12 games remaining.
The man nicknamed the Great Dane finished his career at City but his heart still very much belongs at Old Trafford - and he has questioned whether Roberto Mancini’s side have the experience and mental strength to see out the final three months of the season.
"This period of time is all about not adding pressure," Schmeichel added. "It’s about taking as much pressure out of it as you can, because that’s pressure enough.
"Are the Manchester City supporters going to understand if City drop points? I don’t know, we’ll have to wait and see. It’s a big, big challenge for them.
"The advantage we [United] have is that we’ve been there many times before and we understand what’s going to happen in March and April.
"You can survive bad results in those two months, we know that as players, the club knows that and, of course, the manager knows that. Also the supporters know because they’ve been there before.
"You’ve got experience in players like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. You go through this team and there are a lot of championships in there.
"Once you’ve won the first one, it’s not easy but it’s easier to get the next one because the whole understanding of winning is such a big part of it.
"It’s going to be exciting times for the city of Manchester, for sure. I predict this is going to go all the way to the game at the Etihad Stadium [on April 30]."
Peter Schmeichel has recently been appointed as Carlsberg’s global ambassador. To find out more about Carlsberg’s campaigns for Uefa Euro 2012, visit www.facebook.com/Carlsberg.
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