David de Gea or Dean Henderson? A straight choice at Old Trafford, but one that is far from straightforward.
With Manchester United about to start a brand-new Premier League campaign, many will hope a decision over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s preferred goalkeeping option has already been made.
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But until United face Crystal Palace on September 19 – live on Sky Sports Premier League – the debate rumbles on as to who will be the club’s No 1 next season.
After a host of high-profile errors in 2019/20, Henderson’s return to Old Trafford after two successful seasons on loan at Sheffield United has plunged incumbent De Gea’s position into doubt.
Former United captain Gary Neville adamantly declared De Gea would start the forthcoming campaign as No 1, but warned the ongoing goalkeeping situation could represent a genuine threat to the club’s ambitions this season.
“The idea that Dean Henderson would come into Manchester United and replace David de Gea as No 1 goalkeeper straight away… it won’t happen, I can guarantee it won’t happen,” Neville told Sky Sports’ FNF: Season Preview.
“This has got ‘problem’ written all over it. The one area of the pitch where you need consistency and stability is your goalkeeper, you need to know who your No 1 is, you cannot be flip-flopping. It just does not work; I’ve never seen it work at any club or at international level.
“Where there is a decision to be made about two goalkeepers you have to pick your No 1, go with him and stick with him, even if there is a mistake.
“Once you take David de Gea out of the team and put Henderson in, you may as well forget about De Gea. That’s coming from my experiences at United.
“The period between Peter Schmeichel and Edwin van der Sar we had Ricardo, Fabien Barthez, Mark Bosnich, Roy Carroll, Tim Howard, Massimo Taibi, many goalkeepers over a five- to six-year period and there was an inconsistency that certainly didn’t help.”
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Last-chance saloon for De Gea?
Jamie Carragher believes having both goalkeepers at his disposal this season provides United boss Solskjaer with time to make a judgement on their long-term suitability.
But after De Gea’s error-strewn campaign last time out, and with Henderson yet to prove himself at the highest level, the Sky Sports pundit thinks United may be forced into the transfer market next year to address their goalkeeping issues once and for all.
“I think it’s a good situation for Solskjaer because this gives him 12 months to look at Dean Henderson,” Carragher said.
“Is Henderson good enough for Manchester United? I’m not quite sure. I think in 12 months’ time United could sell the two of them and buy a world-class goalkeeper.
“Henderson will get chances, but this is the last-chance saloon for De Gea. I’m not convinced. I think he was a really good goalkeeper but Manchester United should have one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
“I think in 12 months they will be in the market for a new goalkeeper.”
‘Nightmare situation for Solskjaer’
Jamie Redknapp fears Solskjaer is on a hiding to nothing whichever option he takes.
He added: “This is a nightmare situation for Solskjaer. If he goes with David de Gea as his No 1, the first mistake he makes, everyone will be clambering to get Henderson into the team.
“I don’t think it’ll be healthy. Most of the clubs in the Premier League you know their No 1 goalkeeper, but with the start of the season approaching we don’t know who it is at Manchester United.
“De Gea has made some almighty mistakes, some horrendous ones, but he is still a really good goalkeeper. Henderson, who has England aspirations, doesn’t want to be sitting on the bench all season.
“So there’s two goalkeepers at Manchester United and one of them is going to be really unhappy.”
‘United have to be ready to strike’
As for Manchester United’s objectives this season, Neville believes a title challenge remains premature but has stressed the importance of building on last season’s progress.
“United find themselves in a similar position to Chelsea,” he said. “They have got to make progression from last season, but I don’t have an expectation as a United fan that they are going to break that top two. I don’t think they are quite ready.
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