After signing for the club on a free transfer from Aston Villa a couple of weeks ago, Tom Heaton made his unofficial debut for Manchester United in a friendly match against Derby County.
The first 45 minutes of the match saw Heaton between the sticks and he had an impressive cameo, making two great stops, including a point blank save, to deny the opposition and keep a clean sheet until the break.
The 35-year-old was also guiding his young backline through the match with great communication. After the game, Heaton declared his plan to challenge for the number one shirt at Old Trafford.
The goalkeeper shirt has been in the balance between David de Gea and Dean Henderson over the course of the last season, but Heaton believes that he has what it takes to compete alongside quality goalkeepers and play matches for his boyhood club.
Talking to MUTV after the 2-1 victory at Pride Park, Heaton was asked about if he wanted to earn a starting place under Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
“That’s the plan.” He proclaimed. “Of course I’ve had a fair bit of experience under my belt so I think I can add perhaps a different dimension to the department. There’ll be a professional respect and support all the way through it. But personally that’s the aim, everywhere I’ve been in my career you step on and try and get in the team.
“Of course I’m aware of the challenge here. [There are] some fantastic goalkeepers here. Lee Grant today, the two young boys. It’s a fantastic goalkeeping department. But personally, of course you come here and want to try and get in the team.“Embed from Getty Images
Heaton is fired up to compete with his fellow teammates between the sticks, but as an experienced pro, he wants to improve the goalkeeping department with this energy.
“That’s what I’ll be trying to do, but at the same time making sure there’s a support and an element of competitiveness throughout the department.” Heaton said after the game.
After a crucial ligament injury left him out of the Aston Villa side for over a year, Heaton was ecstatic to be back out on the field, describing his pre-season so far, the goalkeeper said: “It’s getting the body used to hitting the floor again, it’s usually pretty hard [at this time of year] as well so it takes a bit of getting used to – it can be a bit of a shock to the system.
“For me it was great to get started [after] seven weeks off. With the Euros, it was quite a long summer if you weren’t involved in it. So it was nice to get back out there, meet a few of the boys.
While Heaton has bags of experience – with over 100 Premier League appearances – he was alongside seven players who were 21-years-old or younger. He explained that it was good to build relationships with his new squad mates.
“Starting to get a good relationship with a few of the young boys which has been nice, [it’s] not always possible when you join up with the first team squad so that’s been good.” Heaton said.
He continued: “You see so much of each other and that’s how it is through so much of the season so it’s good to sort of have that. You get that sort of imprinted in.
“You build those relationships, find out how people work. So it should be a really good week. I think we’ve got another week further down the line that when everyone’s back we’ll do that again so nice to get the first one under the belt this week and it should be a good week.”
Neither Henderson or De Gea saw any action throughout Euro 2020. The former dropped out of the England camp with injury, and the latter was second choice to Unai Simon for Spain.Embed from Getty Images
Some reports suggest that the Spaniard would like to fight for his spot after 10 years at the club, with the shot-stopper supposedly returning from his holiday early to re-join the squad in pre-season.
With a strong goalkeeping department at the club, it’ll be interesting to see who is between the sticks for Solskjær throughout the 2021/22 campaign.