Former Manchester United forward Andy Cole has heaped praise goalkeeper David De Gea for the manner in which he has established himself as the No.1 after receiving much criticism during his first season at Old Trafford.

The Spaniard moved to Manchester in the summer 2011 after the Premier League giants paid Atletico Madrid around £18.9m to secure his services following the departure of Edwin van der Sar.

He was under scrutiny during his first seasons at the club, and at the beginning of the last campaign saw Sir Alex Ferguson often used Anders Lindegaard as his first choice.

However, De Gea has dealt with the adversity and after being named in the PFA Team of the Year last season, has been United's most consistent performer this term.

"When David first came to United he received absolute dog's abuse from some sections of the media. He was a young goalkeeper, it was a big-money move and he was coming to play for Manchester United - that must have been tough," writes Cole in his Ambassador's Column for United Review.

"It's a different culture, a different league with a different style of football. It was hard for him. But since that difficult first season I think he has been absolutely phenomenal. He has kept United in more than enough games this season and last season.

And Cole believes that he even deserves to be in the running for United's Player of the Year award, having already won the club's Player of the Month for March after his impressive performance in the Champions League last 16 against Olympiakos.

"His saves this season against Olympiacos and Sunderland really stand out but, in truth, he's doing it almost every week. It's the way he has developed and improved, and the character he has shown to overcome those early difficulties, that really stand out for me," he said.

"They are the characteristics of a United player; there are high expectations at this club, some players live up to them and some don't, but he has stepped up, improved all the time and shown he is a fantastic goalkeeper. He gets my vote."