Former Manchester United captain and Class of 1992 graduate Gary Neville sees a problem coming for the club regarding both David De Gea and Dean Henderson, who could be set to go head to head to battle for the clubs number one shirt this season. Henderson has returned to the club and signed a new long-term contract until the summer of 2025 after two good seasons on loan at Sheffield United in which he helped the club rise from the Championship to the Premier League, helping them keep their place in the top flight and almost reaching a European place.
Last season, De Gea suffered a few errors which led to goals, the most embarrassing being in the Emirates FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea, but also quite a few times in the Premier League that season. Henderson suffered a few errors too, which is all part of his development and something that he should be learning from. Some supporters of the club suggest that Henderson could take on De Gea for the number one shirt this season but Neville feels that this is something that cannot just happen from the outset. Speaking to Sky Sports and reported by the Manchester Evening News, Neville said:
“The idea that Dean Henderson will just come in and replace David de Gea as No.1 goalkeeper at Manchester United straight away – it won’t happen, I can guarantee it won’t happen. I think this has got a problem written all over it.
“The one area of the pitch that you need stability and consistency in is your goalkeeper. You need to know who your No.1 is. You cannot have it where you’re flip-flopping. It does not work at all. I’ve never seen it work at any club or international level where there is a decision to be made between two goalkeepers.
“You have to fix your No.1, go with him and even if there’s a mistake, you stick with him. Once you take De Gea out of the team and put Henderson in, you may as well forget about De Gea.
“I think it’s a real difficult issue and that’s coming from my experience at United. In the period at United between Peter Schmeichel and Edwin van der Sar, when we had Ricardo, Barthez, Bosnich, Howard, Carroll, Taibi, we had many many goalkeepers over a five-six year period, there was an inconsistency. It wasn’t just the goalkeeper position but it didn’t help. You need stability in that position.”
United have had some very turbulent times with goalkeepers just in the Premier League era alone. Neville was part of the team that saw Peter Schmeichel leave the club after winning the treble and over the next six years, before Edwin van de Sar arrived at the club, United went through six goalkeepers, none of which seemed to fill the gloves of Schmeichel other than Van der Sar. United should not be seeking to head into a period whereby such a thing could happen once again.
De Gea has been a model professional at United for a lot of his nine years at the Old Trafford club, winning the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award four times, three of those in succession which shows the level he had risen to as a goalkeeper. The last few seasons have not been the best for the club with lots of rebuilding to be done. The fact that United conceded 54 goals in the Premier League alone in the 2018/19 season, reducing that to 36 goals in the 2019/20 season shows some progress. With the right signings this summer, United could be at their strongest point post-Sir Alex Ferguson.
Henderson has his best years ahead of him and it is going to be much different him playing for United as the scrutiny that will be up against him from the media, pundits, United supporters and opposition supporters will be intense to say the least. Every mistake will be placed under the microscope and made into something much bigger than it was and the 23-year-old will need to be ready for that. The fact that he has risen a league during every loan spell for United is a good thing, which has allowed him to grow each season.
Written by John Walker