MANCHESTER, England – For 120 minutes at Old Trafford on Tuesday night, Dean Henderson’s main preoccupation was finding a way to stay warm.
During snow flurries on a freezing night in Manchester, West Ham United only managed one shot on target as Manchester United won their FA Cup fifth round match 1-0 thanks to Scott McTominay’s goal in overtime . But even when David Moyes’ side couldn’t help the 23-year-old keeper assert his first-choice claims, he still managed to help himself.
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His performance in his 10th start of the season was one of quiet skill, and pitted David De Gea’s mistakes in the 3-3 draw with Everton On Saturday he will do no harm to his hopes of dislodging the No.1 Spaniard. Henderson is likely to be back on the bench for the trip to West Bromwich Albion on Sunday, but more games like this – calm, organized and straightforward – and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s decision will become increasingly difficult.
Henderson didn’t do anything spectacular against West Ham – he didn’t need to – but he was able to show just how good he is a goalkeeper anyway. He was in the right position to comfortably save Said Benrahma’s header and when West Ham looked for an overtime goal he was confident enough to run to the edge of the penalty area and grab Aaron Cresswell’s high free kick.
There’s no question De Gea is capable of stopping shots, but he doesn’t go out of his line to relieve his defenders as often as he should. Henderson has done it more than once and, at the end of the first half, claimed a Cresswell cross from the left over Andriy Yarmolenko’s header.
“I always hope our goalie has a quiet night when we play, and most of the time it was that way. [Henderson] was clean in everything, “Solskjaer said afterwards.” Passing is always the main thing in the cut. I was very happy with the mentality, the attitude and the experience. “
On loan to Sheffield United last season, Henderson made more saves, claimed more crosses and struck more often than De Gea, but there are still aspects of his game that Solskjaer and his coaches would like him to work on. At Bramall Lane he was allowed to hit balls more often to the halfway line, but at United he should help build from behind. In his pre-match press conference, Solskjaer suggested that Henderson improve with his feet, and the way he shot Tomas Soucek on his own goal line as the final seconds ticked by was proof. of his growing confidence. It should be noted that at halftime, Henderson was with a coach, not warming up his hands, but performing passing drills.
Often the challenge for a goalkeeper at United is keeping his focus as most of the action takes place on the other end. “David has been used to this for years: staying focused, keeping an eye on the ball and all of a sudden a moment comes and you have to make a save,” Solskjaer said.
Henderson still has work to do to oust De Gea for good. In September 2019, De Gea signed a gigantic contract that could keep him at the club until 2024, and Solskjaer will be reluctant to have one of his biggest employees sit on the bench.
For Henderson, playing regular games is the only way for him to continue his development, and although he has made 11 appearances so far this season, Solskjaer accepts that is not enough. “He’s not the most patient,” the Norwegian commented this week.
Sources told ESPN that Henderson and his representatives were comfortable with Solskjaer’s plan for this season. He hopes to play in the remaining cup matches and the majority of the Europa League campaign while De Gea will continue in the Premier League.
The question, however, will be how long Henderson will be happy with this arrangement. He has the ambition to be England’s No.1, if not at the European Championship this summer, then certainly for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
First, he will have to win the battle with De Gea at United. He went under the radar against West Ham but ensured that the debate over who should get the gloves at Old Trafford will continue.