Manchester United have delayed making a final decision on problem Solskjaer identified last year – Tyrone Marshall


It’s just over a year since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said the goalkeeping situation at Manchester United was unsustainable and vowed to find a “solution” in time for the start of last season.

In the end, that solution made itself clear to Solskjaer, rather than the other way around. Dean Henderson tested positive for Covid-19 last summer and struggled to shake off the aftereffects, so David de Gea started the season in goal.

De Gea immediately hit the ground running and ended the season as players’ player of the year, but it could very easily have been a different story

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Speaking before the final day of the 2020/21 season, Solskjaer admitted that continuing to rotate De Gea and Henderson was not going to work. Last summer United signed Tom Heaton on the expectation one of the two would depart and it understood Solskjaer was leaning towards making Henderson his No. 1 and allowing De Gea to leave the club.

But circumstances intervened and De Gea spent every minute of the Premier League season between the sticks, usually overworked and under-protected, while Henderson had to sit on the bench and make do with three cup games, probably United’s three most forgettable, meaningless games of the campaign.

When Erik ten Hag took the reins this summer he was never going to ax De Gea. Ten Hag has plenty in his in-tray at Carrington, so dropping the goalkeeper voted the club’s best player by his teammates last season was not going to be on the agenda.

There are legitimate questions as to how De Gea will fit into a Ten Hag team, however. The Dutchman wants his goalkeeper to be good with his feet and comfortable behind a high line, areas that aren’t De Gea’s strengths.

Luis Enrique’s decision to drop De Gea from his Spain squad and include Brighton’s Robert Sanchez and Brentford goalkeeper David Raya are a clear indication of how a modern manager might view the 31-year-old’s attributes.

He will get this season to impress Ten Hag and prove the doubters wrong, but United are clearly keeping their options open when it comes to the goalkeeping department.


Henderson was never going to accept another season out of the picture given his burning ambition. The 25-year-old has never hidden his desire to be the first-choice goalkeeper for United and England but last season was a wasted one.

He was always going to seek out regular games this season and those will come in the Premier League with Nottingham Forest, but in talks over a season-long loan to the City Ground United refused to countenance including an option to buy.

Henderson will hope his performances for Forest can get him back into contention for the England squad for the World Cup in November and December, having fallen out of the international picture as a result of his inactivity.

His performances could also influence Ten Hag and United. The lack of an option to buy means he will return to Old Trafford in the summer of 2023, two years after Solskjaer said the battle between De Gea and Henderson was unsustainable.

That will have to be the point when a decision is finally made and it looks like it will be Ten Hag’s call. De Gea’s contract expires in June 2023, although United have the option to extend it by a year, and at the moment a long-term renewal does not look like a sensible call.

It would surely make more sense to wait until the midway point of this season and see how De Gea and Henderson are faring. Henderson’s contract doesn’t expire until 2025, so if United decide to stick with De Gea they could still cash in on the England international.

Moving De Gea will be more difficult, given he turns 32 in November and is on around 5 375,000 a week, but the expiring contract is beneficial to United in that regard.

This season has to be the decisive one for De Gea and Henderson. They will be representing different Premier League clubs, but the target for both will be the same.




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