Manchester United secured a 2-1 win over Brighton & Hove Albion in the Premier League on Sunday. Danny Welbeck’s goal for The Seagull’s was just the 14th goal Dean Henderson has conceded in 19 starts for The Reds this season and there was not much he could do about it.
The ball was crossed in and the ex-United man fired a powerful header towards the floor from the edge of the six-yard box and while the United goalkeeper managed to save this with his leg, it only came back to the striker who easily headed home at the second time of asking.
However, it was the fact that he was on the pitch in the first place that could suggest that the academy graduate has become the go-to-guy between the sticks for Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
While Henderson was given the shirt due to David de Gea travelling to Spain for the birth of his first child last month, the Spaniard was available for this fixture but the manager chose to stick with Henderson, who had kept a clean sheet in each of his last three league fixtures before the game.
When speaking to the media, Solskjær wanted to be clarify that both Henderson and De Gea will be featuring for The Reds in the back-end of the season, but there are reports that at the end of the season, the United manager and board will decide about the future of the two goalkeepers and will need to offload one of the pair.
Solskjær is not one to dig out his players and seems like he would prefer to keep problems ‘in-house’, perhaps him telling the media that Alexis Sanchez would come back from his loan to Inter Milan to “prove you all wrong” is the perfect example of this.
This suggests that, even though the Norwegian has publicly backed both of his options between the sticks, we could call the decision to keep Dean Henderson in net against Brighton a big statement and it could be a symbol of the baton being passed from the long-serving number one to the young and hungry goalkeeper.
In just a short amount of time, United have already reaped rewards from Henderson’s style. His ability to be proactive in his decision making has directly led to goals against both Manchester City and Real Sociedad so far this season. This goes alongside the fact he is active in claiming crosses – in fact, in his first five league starts for United, Henderson boasted a 100% claim success rate while also being twice as active as the average Premier League goalkeeper.
This is perhaps an area where De Gea has been criticised in recent years, as he rarely commands his box and is not great in the build-up. However, the Spaniard made up for all of this by being the best shot-stopper in world football – but he does not boast that title anymore and the weaknesses in his game elsewhere have risen to attention.
De Gea might still be a better shot-stopper than his counterpart, but the academy graduate brings multiple other assets to the team through his distribution, commanding of his box, communication and more.
While it is likely that United’s number one still has a part to play this season, after starting his seventh game in row against Brighton, the signs are pointing at Henderson being the option that Solskjaer wants to have in his team for the coming season.
Has the Man United goalkeeping baton been passed from David de Gea to Dean Henderson?