Amidst the exodus from Manchester United this week, there is one disgruntled player who has been told he is not going anywhere. Dean Henderson wanted to leave to play more first-team football, but Ralf Rangnick ended that possibility early in the window.
Anthony Martial has his wish to leave, Donny van de Beek is likely to follow and Jesse Lingard could also leave, but Rangnick felt he couldn’t do without Henderson as substitute goalkeeper.
That quartet have started just two Premier League games all season, both under Martial, but the risk of something happening to David de Gea means there is an element of risk in letting Henderson go.
But the days of the two goalkeepers fighting to be the first choice are over. They had pretty much equal chances last season and there didn’t seem to be much, but De Gea’s form has been good this season and he has established himself again.
For a player of Henderson’s boundless ambition, playing second fiddle isn’t enough, even at a club as great as United, so he’ll be desperate to leave in the summer and start his career.
It’s a sign of how quickly things can change for a goalkeeper that when Aaron Ramsdale left for Sheffield United last season, many saw it as a downgrade from Henderson. However, Ramsdale have moved to Arsenal and are now close to usurping Jordan Pickford as England’s number 1 as well. Meanwhile, Henderson can’t even get on the team now.
If Henderson’s summer departure appears to be a certainty, United’s next manager may also have to make a decision on De Gea. His run of form this season has been much needed, given his £375,000-a-week pay package. His contract expires at the end of next season, although United have the option to extend it for another year.
De Gea’s form this season has put him in contention for United’s fifth player of the year award, but they often follow a similar pattern. When United are having bad seasons, De Gea can shine, in part because of the amount of work he has to do.
His 84 saves this season are a Premier League high, 13 more than the next man on the list, Leeds’ Illan Meslier. He shows how poor United’s defense has been this season and how often they have needed De Gea to bail them out.
That has always been the 31-year-old’s strong point. De Gea is a brilliant goalkeeper, so when the team is under pressure, he comes to the fore. But United should aim to offer more control, something Rangnick has already mentioned, and if they can do that, the goalkeeper will have less work to get through.
That is a situation that Liverpool and Manchester City achieve, needing the occasional brilliance of Alisson and Ederson, but also having their Brazilian goalkeepers because they are supreme at sweeping out of their penalty areas, allowing the defense to play a high line. , and excellent with the ball at his feet.
That is the role of a modern goalkeeper now, especially for the most successful teams. It has never been a particular strength for De Gea. If United start to dominate games, there will be less focus on the Spaniard’s saves and more on his other attributes.
At this stage, it will be interesting to see if a new manager, whoever he may be, decides De Gea is worth another monster contract, or if a more modern goalkeeper becomes desirable.
De Gea will undoubtedly surpass 500 appearances for United, probably early next season, at which point a decision will be made on his next contract.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.