Henderson v De Gea
Look Dean Henderson has done well, in many regards he’s done all you can ask of him. He has come back to Manchester United, well aware that he would still be the number two behind David De Gea.
On Tuesday night against Luton Town he kept a clean sheet and made a fine late save when the score was 1-0. However people can’t let themselves get carried away. As my colleague Ben Snowball alluded to earlier It was a good save, nothing more nothing less, and against Luton Town.
What Henderson does deserve credit for is returning to United in the first place and challenging De Gea, as long as it was for the right reasons. Now what I mean by ‘for the right reasons’ is this: What I would like to think is that Henderson has looked at De Gea, a vastly experienced goalkeeper, and he has thought to himself that he can compete and eventually beat him out as the club’s first-choice story. I hope that was his motivating factor, not the huge new contract he got, otherwise he should have gone back on loan to Sheffield United.
If he is up for the challenge though, and I have no reason to think otherwise, then he deserves a lot of credit. It’s easy these days for players to be content, to stay comfortable. It would have been very easy for him to go back to Sheffield United, where he knows everyone and is the undisputed first-choice, but fair play to him for testing himself.
I don’t think you can give as much credit to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or Manchester United as a whole. They’ve put themselves, and De Gea, in a very awkward situation. We all know De Gea is going to come back into the starting line-up for Saturday’s game against Brighton but what happens then if he makes an error? Every goal they concede now is going to be dissected more than before.
Even if United win you know Solskjaer is going to be under pressure from fans and the media to make a change. It’s tough for goalkeepers, you don’t get to make as many mistakes as outfield players, and now De Gea is going to be under the microscope more than ever.
Dean Henderson makes a save v Luton Town
Image credit: Getty Images
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What happens with England?
It also has interesting ramifications at international level. People are starting to ask questions about Jordan Pickford and I have to say I’ve never been convinced. He is a flapper and people can point to his distribution, and he has a terrific left peg, but a modern-day goalkeeper has to have the complete package. I’m not sure Carlo Ancelotti is convinced and that doubt may extend itself to Gareth Southgate.
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Of course it all depends on what is happening with Henderson, or perhaps that won’t matter so much. In my day there was no chance you were getting picked for your country if you weren’t playing regularly for your club. Now that might not matter so much, particularly if Henderson has enough games in cup competitions under his belt. Obviously ideally you would hope that he is playing Premier League football.
Man Utd need a commanding centre-half, do they already have it?
Returning to United as a whole and it’s frustrating to see so many holes in this team this late on in the window. They are now being linked to Alex Telles of Porto and I’ve been saying they need a left-back for ages now. Luke Shaw has done his best but his powers of recovery are just not up to scratch.
I also think they need a commanding centre-half who can lead the defence. You have an £80 million player in Harry Maguire, who I feel is only really captain due to his price tag. There needs to be someone who can organise and get everyone in the right position as well, that might also help De Gea as well.
You want someone like a Steve Bruce, Jaap Staam or Nemanja Vidic in there. Even when I think about Ronnie Johnson or Wes Brown, either of them at their peak, would make this United defence 30-40% better if you put them in rather than Maguire.
For me you’re a captain because you have something about you, not because of what you cost, especially when you weren’t captain at your previous club.
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It’s difficult to find someone like Virgil van Dijk, who could have played in any era make no doubt about it, but perhaps United already have the answer within their ranks? I’m not necessarily convinced about promoting from within given it hasn’t worked so far with what they’re tried but if you’re going to go down that route then why not give Chris Smalling a chance?
He took a risk going to Roma last year, but it turned out to be a great move for him and he will have come back a better player. It’s got to be tough for him watching the amount they’ve spent on centre-back and you would have to wonder whether his head will be in the right place particularly given he hasn’t been allowed to return to Roma. It’s hard for him when he hears Southgate saying that he can’t play out from the back and then you watch Maguire.