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Henderson must be United number 1 next season

When Manchester United made Dean Henderson one of the world’s best-paid goalkeepers last year, it made a statement. His new bumper contract declared that at some point, the club intends to make him their number 1. But the way things are panning out, Henderson must be the United number 1 next season or he’ll be gone.

It says a lot about his talent that at 23, he’s pushing to dislodge one of United’s greatest-ever ‘keepers. But with David De Gea nowhere near his consistent best, sentiment will only take him so far. Henderson is ready for the jersey. And the feeling at the club is that if he doesn’t get the chance soon, then plenty of opportunities await elsewhere.

David De Gea and Dean Henderson goalkeeping statistics for the 2019-2020 season
Dean Henderson’s stats matched David De Gea’s closely last season

A United fan itching for his chance

Henderson joined United at 14 years old, and having tasted success with 2 superb loan seasons at Sheffield United, is ready for his chance at Old Trafford. This is a man with huge confidence in his own ability. The challenge of playing for United doesn’t faze Henderson, it drives him.

Having produced some incredible statistics in his Bramall Lane loan spell, his reputation has soared. England recognition has followed, but being limited to cup appearances so far isn’t satisfying the hunger enough.

Henderson has had a taste of being the main man. Now he wants it back at the club he supports.

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A new contract, but plenty of options

Henderson must be disappointed with just cup cameos at United so far, even though Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made De Gea the outright number 1 for the season. He signed a new 5-year contract in August 2020 with a view to this season being a fight for the jersey, with appearances on merit.

But so far, Solskjaer has been loyal to De Gea, despite a couple of mistakes again creeping into the Spaniard’s game.

There was rumoured interest from Chelsea, although they’ve since signed Edouard Mendy as their first-choice goalkeeper. Now though, Tottenham are rumoured to be monitoring his happiness at Old Trafford. And significantly, Borussia Dortmund are keen. Their reputation for giving young English talent a chance will definitely turn Henderson’s head.

Why Henderson must be United number 1

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s loyalty to David De Gea is entirely understandable. He’s been a United stalwart for years, often saving them from mediocrity in the tough post-Ferguson era. If there is to be a transition, De Gea deserves it to be gradual rather than sudden.

But with the type of football United are trying to play – and the fragility of their defence – Henderson would be a much better fit.

He commands his area and is statistically better at catching crosses – a notorious area of weakness for United. You can hear Henderson barking orders at his defenders. Ask any United fan, and they’ll tell you how much Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof need that. The pair need a Peter Schmeichel-type figure behind them.

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Henderson will rightly be a part of future England squads. But until he’s first choice for his club then Gareth Southgate will be reluctant to start him for the national team.

With rivals Jordan Pickford and Nick Pope both able but hardly world-class, Henderson has a golden opportunity to become England’s – as well as Manchester United’s – number 1.

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© Mike Barclay at The Football Diary 2020