De Gea feels at home at United

Serie A title hopefuls Napoli will be deducted two points after
Paolo Cannavaro and Gianluca Grava failed to report
match-fixing.

Defenders Cannavaro and Grava were handed six-month bans, the
Italian Football Federation (FIGC) has confirmed.

Former Azzurri goalkeeper Matteo Gianello has been banned for 39
months for admitting an attempt to fix Napoli’s top-flight meeting
with Sampdoria in 2010, with Cannavaro and Grava punished for
failing to report their knowledge of Gianello’s actions and Napoli
penalised as the players’ employer.

A disciplinary commision statement published on FIGC read: “Two
penalty points for Napoli and a 70,000 euro fine. A ban of three
years and three months for Matteo Gianello and bans of six months
for Paolo Cannavaro and Gianluca Grava.”

Gianello, now a free agent, confessed to attempting to fix the
outcome of Napoli’s Serie A match at Sampdoria in May 2010.
Cannavaro and Grava denied any wrongdoing but are set to miss the
rest of the season for failing to report Gianello’s activities to
the authorities at the time.

Despite making a strong start to the season, Napoli had fallen
eight points behind league leaders and reigning champions Juventus,
with Tuesday’s deduction further distancing Walter Mazzarri’s side
as they slip into fifth place behind Inter Milan, Lazio and
Fiorentina.

FIGC prosecutor Stefano Palazzi had previously suggested a ban
of 16 months for Gianello but a disciplinary tribunal recommended a
lengthier suspension.

A one-point deduction was the original proposal for Napoli, with
Cannavaro and Grava facing nine-month bans, but those verdicts have
also been amended.

Napoli, Cannavaro and Grava are likely to appeal the hefty
sanctions through the FIGC before approaching the TNAS tribunal
court in Rome should they be unsuccessful.

The disciplinary commission also issued a two-point deduction
for Lega Pro side Portogruaro while Crotone were acquitted of any
wrongdoing in a 2011 match between the two sides.

The FIGC’s wide-ranging investigation into match-fixing, known
as ‘Calcioscommesse’ saw Juventus head coach Antonio Conte
suspended from the game for four months for failing to report his
knowledge of match-fixing during his time in charge of Siena.

Conte’s former club accepted a six-point deduction for their
role in the scandal, with former Bari defender Andrea Masiello
receiving a 22-month suspended prison sentence after admitting
scoring an own-goal during a relegation decider.

Ex-Siena defender Emanuele Pesoli chained himself to the
headquarters of the FIGC for four days in protest against a
three-year ban.

The 22-year-old Brazilian has been a regular feature of the
United side at right-back throughout the calendar year.

Aside from an aberration at Reading earlier this month, when he
was substituted after just 31 tortured minutes, Rafael has been one
of the side’s most consistent performers.

Rafael told the club’s website: “It’s been a great year for
me.

“I feel like I have grown up a lot and that I am maturing.

“My daughter was born this year, which has helped me a lot in
that way, and on the pitch I have been able to play a lot of
games.

“So I’ve had a lot of good moments, not just in football, but in
life this year.

“I feel more experienced and like I am growing as a player and a
person.

“I was only 18 when I first came here, I was just a boy. Some
people may think I am still young and still a boy but now I feel
like I am man.

“Playing games week-in, week-out helps you feel more comfortable
and confident on the pitch and I’m pleased I’ve been able to do
that this season.”

United lead the Premier League by six points heading into the
Christmas fixtures and the team are safely through to the knockout
stage of the Champions League.

Rafael, who signed a four-year contract last summer, said: “My
target for 2013 is like every player – we want to win trophies.

“When you’re at this club that has to be your focus – we all
want to win.

“And personally I want to play as many games as I can and be
consistent in my performances.

“When you get into January you know the really important time in
the season is not the far away and there will be big game after big
game.

“Of course, every game is important but after Christmas they
become massive matches.”

The goalkeeper joined United from Atletico Madrid in the summer
of 2011 and endured a mixed debut season as he struggled to
establish himself as Sir Alex Ferguson’s number one.

He again lost his place to Anders Lindegaard this season and
that sparked rumours of a return to Spain, but the 22-year-old has
no plans to leave Old Trafford.

“I’m very settled and feel like part of the furniture around the
club,” said De Gea in The Sun.

“I feel very much at home in the Premier League and, of course,
with my team-mates here at the club. I’m enjoying life here and I
feel I’ve settled well.”

Parts of De Gea’s goalkeeping have come under regular scrutiny
during his time in England, but the Spaniard feels he is becoming a
better player.

He added: “The biggest thing for me is that I’ve managed to work
through some difficult times and those moments always make you
stronger. It makes you a stronger person and a better player.

“I think I’ve improved right across the board, in all aspects of
my game. I’m still only young and I feel as though I’m learning
every day.

“I’ve hopefully got a long career ahead of me, so I want to soak
up as much knowledge as I can while I’m young.”

He continued: “I’m at a huge club now and there are big demands
on you.

“As a goalkeeper, I’m well aware that any mistake can be
magnified by the fans. But it’s true that here at Manchester United
there’s added pressure.

“It’s bigger right now than it was for me at Atletico Madrid and
also for Spain Under-21s.”