David de Gea Victor Valdes
Victor Valdes (left) has been back-up to David de Gea (right) since joining Manchester United in JanuaryGetty images

Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea says he has developed significantly during his time at Old Trafford and claims he enjoys a strong relationship with Victor Valdes.

De Gea initially struggled badly with the more physical aspects of English football when he first arrived from Atletico Madrid in 2011, yet has since shown real resilience and desire to evolve into one of the very finest young talents in Europe.

His imposing performances for Manchester United this term have earned rave reviews from across the continent and led to strong interest from Real Madrid, who are believed to be targeting the player as a long-term replacement for captain Iker Casillas.

Those rumours were further fuelled by United manager Louis van Gaal's decision to bring Valdes to the club on an 18-month contract in January, although rather than just competing with De Gea, the former Barcelona stalwart appears to be having a positive impact on his rival's career as it continues to go from strength to strength at Old Trafford.

"Truth be told, English football has changed me a great deal," De Gea told Fifa.com. "I've developed a lot physically, greatly improved my concentration and generally improved all aspects of my game. I was very young when I came here, but four years on, things are very good overall. This league really suits me, as you learn a lot here.

"Victor Valdes and I work very well together – I'm very happy to be with him. I'm learning so much from him, not just in goalkeeping terms given his immense experience, but also as a person. He's a very straightforward guy with a lot of character. Moreover, he's always ready to lend a hand, trying to help out with his advice, especially during games."

Valdes, who has featured at U21 level over recent months, is yet to make a single first-team appearance for Manchester United and has not played at senior level since undergoing surgery on a torn cruciate ligament in March 2014.

That injury forced the Spaniard to miss the World Cup in Brazil and also led to a contract dispute with AS Monaco after the Ligue 1 club declined to sign him despite previously appearing to agree personal terms.

Although three-time Champions League winner Valdes has proved his quality in the past, such a lack of regular football surely makes it questionable that he would be viewed as a reliable number one option in the event De Gea were to decline the opportunity to extend his contract and join Real Madrid.