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Simon Mignolet Comes Full Circle since Last Trip to Old Trafford

The Premier League's clean sheet king of 2015 reflects on his journey since the club's last trip to fierce rivals Manchester United.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

How does a Liverpool player recover from being dropped only to see a vastly inferior member of the squad take his place? Mamadou Sakho is going through what Simon Mignolet went through last season, although the Frenchman's performances didn't merit his long-term future being called into question while Mignolet's did.

The Belgian keeper was dropped for Brad Jones for last season's Premier League trip to Old Trafford in what was a considerable shock at the time. A three-nil defeat with many chances for the away side, indomitable resistance in the form of David de Gea, and an exceptionally poor performance from Jones made it a strange December day. Mignolet's subsequent resurgence in 2015 combined with tomorrow's return to Old Trafford since that day has provoked much reflection from the 27-year-old.

"It's a totally different picture this time," Mignolet said. "Last time I went there and sat on the bench. It was a difficult time. It was the day before the game when the gaffer told me I wouldn't be playing. We trained a bit later that day before travelling to Manchester.

"I said to myself that I wanted that period out of the team to be as short as possible. I've never been one to sit on the bench. I said to myself you have to work hard and make sure this doesn't drag on. You can do two things: moan about it and let your head drop or be positive and work as hard as you ever did to get back into the team and that's what I did.

"Looking back, I'm very happy with how I responded to that. 2015 has been a good year for me so far - both on and off the pitch. Keeping those clean sheets and I saw a stat that over the past four years I have made the most saves in the Premier League.

"Off the pitch, I got married and became a godparent for the fifth time so I'm happy with the way things have been going. I want to continue in the same way. We started the season off with three clean sheets and we need to get back to that on Saturday."

The former Sunderland stopper certainly got back to the his fine start to Liverpool life with this season's succession of clean sheets before the crushing home defeat to West Ham United. There remains a feeling that Mignolet could do a bit more to banish any lingering doubts of upgrading the position. The arrival of Adam Bogdan from Bolton Wanderers didn't represent the level of competition that many thought Mignolet needed to continue his solid form, but perhaps there is more to come from the Belgian international number two.

He's not considered among the Premier League's best in the position when David de Gea, Petr Čech, Hugo Lloris, and Thibaut Courtois are around. However, he can be considered as a reliable campaigner. One who won't prevent the side from reaching targets much in the same way as Joe Hart for Manchester City. The shot-stopping remains stellar, but it is the increased confidence, communication, and commanding presence that have been areas of significant development.

"I think a lot of it is down to confidence coming back into my game," Mignolet admitted. "When you keep a couple of clean sheets, you don't really hesitate or doubt yourself any more. I stopped thinking twice and went with my feeling instead."

The changes resulted in being recognised as the club's player of the year for 2014/15 by former players, ones who naturally can be hard to please considering the club's illustrious history. There's the revelation of his wife Jasmien's wisdom and advice that helped Mignolet enter 2015 with a fresh approach to his work on the pitch.

All that is left is to face the team he could not face last December to complete the circle: Manchester United. The life of a Liverpool player will mean that his work is never completed, but tomorrow will end one chapter in the career of Simon Mignolet.

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