The goalkeeping set-up has been fairly consistent for a few years now at Manchester United. David De Gea is the undisputed #1 between the sticks in the league and Sergio Romero as the second choice featuring in cup ties. This situation seems to be up for a major shakeup this year, mainly due to two reasons.
Firstly, it is about the series of underwhelming performances by the Spanish goalkeeper ever since the infamous 3-3 draw against Portugal at the 2018 World Cup. De Gea looks a mere shadow of his true self over this season with multiple errors and overall shake performances in various games, the most telling being his display in the 3-1 loss to Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final with his mistakes attributed to each of the three goals conceded. The second reason is the emergence of Dean Henderson who spent the 19/20 campaign on loan at newly-promoted Sheffield United.
Henderson’s first season with the Blades in the Premier League was superb. The 23-year-old recorded 13 clean sheets- same as of de Gea and lead his team to a top ten finish in England’s top division. A 75.2% save success rate Henderson has a strong case for being the first choice GK at a top Premier League club.
With the United #1 shirt occupied by De Gea with what seemed like full authority, the young Englishman was rightly sent out on loan, a move that has paid its dividends in the longer run. When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was asked about his goal-keeping options, he called himself ‘the most privileged manager’ and has suggested that the situation needs to be addressed.
“It’ll be difficult to keep three of them, so we’ll see what the decision will be there.” said the Norwegian prior to the side’s Europa League quarter-final game, suggesting a sale might be on the cards.
All things considered here are the four likely paths that United might follow regarding their goalkeeping options:
#1 Henderson comes back to United but De Gea stays as the first option
This situation would create a massive roadblock in Dean Henderson’s career. He made his intention clear with his performances that he is not happy being a second choice keeper and is determined to start as the first choice. This also puts the current second choice, Sergio Romero into the third option which the Argentine would not be willing to accept. Romero is too good to be a third choice option.
Romero would be right to have expected more game time in the 19/20 campaign itself so being dropped down to the third choice will most definitely result in tension in the dressing room.
#2 United ships De Gea off, Henderson comes back
This is a tough situation to be in as De Gea signed a four-year contract in September 2019 keeping him at the club until June of 2023. Despite his poor performances throughout the season, De Gea still seems to be backed by the club as well as Ole. Solskjaer has openly made comments about the Spaniard being the best goalkeeper in the world.
As unlikely as it is, if this scenario arises there will be no shortage of suitors for the Spaniard as at 29 years of age, he could still perform at the highest level. This would certainly open up the #1 slot for Dean Henderson to occupy which is just what the young keeper is looking for after an impressive first season in the Premier League. Some critics also suggest its too early to rely on Henderson as the 23-year-old Englishman has only played one season in the top flight. However, this will be a poor front on the club’s reputation to get rid of a player who carried the whole team in adverse times and won games single-handedly.
#3 Henderson back on loan, De Gea stays
Solskjaer still backs De Gea publicly and there are no major links to sway him away from Old Trafford easily. It is little to suggest De Gea will lose his starting role. The former Atletico Madrid keeper moves into his 10th season at United and he’s performed fairly decent to make his manager and team ensure trust in him. For Henderson, he needs regular minutes which cannot be guaranteed if De Gea stays.
Another loan spell in the top flight could be the way to go as it would satisfy Henderson’s first-team demands. At the same time, United will not have to part ways permanently with a solid goalkeeper for the club’s future. This will also buy United more time to determine and make a sound decision for the future.
#4 Henderson to be sold permanently, De Gea stays
With all the hype surrounding Dean Henderson and his big break into the Manchester United squad, it is no secret that many other top clubs are behind the young star’s signature as well.
Regular football is a priority in Henderson’s career. Should United fail to assure De Gea’s spot to the Englishman and with reluctancy towards another loan spell, a move away from Old Trafford might be the only remaining option. In the highly unlikely scenario that the club do not find a way to keep him as a Manchester United player beyond this season offers for the keeper will start flooding in with many top clubs across Europe looking to acquire a fix in the goalkeeper position.
The player has expressed a desire to play for the Red Devils and the club hopeful to protect his services, a permanent move away will always be avoided but with unfortunate timing, it could be a possibility.