David De Gea believes his spectacular last-minute save at Chelsea in February could prove to be a pivotal moment in Manchester United's title charge.
United recovered from three goals down at Stamford Bridge to draw 3-3, with De Gea producing a stunning block to keep out Juan Mata's last-minute free-kick and secure a point for Sir Alex Ferguson's side.
Prior to the Chelsea game, Manchester United had lost consecutive matches against Blackburn and Newcastle as their title challenge suffered a temporary blip. But after the remarkable result at the Bridge, the defending champions went on an eight-game winning run, to maintain pressure on Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
De Gea experienced a mediocre start to life at Manchester United after making a £18m switch from Atletico Madrid in the summer. The young Spaniard looked particularly uncomfortable dealing with crosses and set-pieces and made a number of costly errors in the early part of the season; and his mistake in the FA Cup defeat at Liverpool drew barbed criticism from Ferguson.
But the Manchester United goalkeeper has weathered the early disparagement to emerge as one of Ferguson's key players in the title run-in. De Gea kept his sixth clean sheet in seven games in Sunday's win over Aston Villa and the youngster believes the result at Chelsea could come to define their season, should they secure a 20th league title in May.
"When you look back over a season there are lots of defining moments and key goals,' De Gea told the Daily Mail. "But, I suppose, from a team point of view, and particularly from a personal point of view, the fact the save was right in the last minute was decisive.
"It gave me a huge confidence boost as well and that was important. Now we are in front and we have to try and stay there because it would be a dream come true to win the league in my first season."
And Ferguson insists De Gea has benefitted from a tough introduction to life in the Premier League and believes the Manchester United keeper has the potential to become a key figure at Old Trafford for the foreseeable future.
"David has stood up as a man," Ferguson told the Telegraph earlier this month. "He got a grip of it, he didn't let it get to him and the boy has improved every game. The area in which he had been criticised was aerial balls in the box.
"He knew that and he's addressed that situation, so there's a great improvement there. Now he's playing with confidence and confidence is a great factor in English football."
He added: "He stood up to the situation. He knew it was a challenge and it took him time to adjust to the different ways of the English game as opposed to the Spanish game. He's showing that now."