After impressing two seasons on loan at Thursday’s opponent Sheffield United, the 23-year-old has yet to earn a string of starts at Old Trafford
When it comes to team rotation, the goalkeeper position is rarely one that managers feel they need to modify in an effort to ensure exceptional sharpness, so the physical demands are relatively small.
Yet as Manchester United begin a six-game streak in the space of 15 days with a trip to Bramall Lane to face Sheffield United, it has been suggested by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that he may be willing to switch things up between the sticks.
“Do you know how many games we have?” was Solskjaer’s answer to the question whether the second November meeting with Istanbul Basaksehir was probably Dean Henderson’s last in 2020.
“I completely disagree if (you’re suggesting) tomorrow is a defining time for Dean.”
As it turned out, David de Gea kept his post for visiting Turkish champions, and although Henderson has since made his league debut with the Red Devils, he’s still waiting for a first round of matches for his club to boys outside the cup competitions.
The 23-year-old will return to South Yorkshire on Thursday hoping to take on the team he spent two stellar seasons on loan with and that Solskjaer will finally give him the opportunity to show what he can do at a pivotal point of the season. .
If he remains on the bench for the foreseeable future, however, Solskjaer faces an unwanted problem on his hands and one that could divide the club’s fans.
Henderson made the decision to stay at United this season and signed a new five-year contract with the knowledge that he would be given a fair opportunity to challenge De Gea – who had worked his way through the last two campaigns – for a starting place. .
And while he impressed in the Carabao Cup against Luton Town and Brighton before acting as a vocal and commanding presence when he replaced De Gea against Southampton in November, a series of beginnings have yet to materialize.
“Performance will always be the deciding factor whether you play or not,” Solskjaer said last month, and yet if it weren’t for De Gea injuring his knee, Henderson probably wouldn’t even have made a league appearance with. the United.
As a player who still cherishes the hope of being Gareth Southgate’s No.1 with England at the European Championships this summer, Henderson has to wonder if he made the right choice to stay at Old Trafford this quarter.
If he had known how few opportunities would be offered, would he have stayed? If things stay the way they are, will you want to stay past the end of this season? The answer to both could be “no”.
To his credit, De Gea found some consistency, and even when he was called by Paul Scholes for “bottling” him for Justin Kluivert’s winning goal for RB Leipzig as United exited the Champions League, many heard the former midfielder was a bit exaggerated.
It has not been suggested that the former Real Madrid goalkeeper could leave the club anytime soon, although his sale could potentially help strengthen Solskjaer’s available finances in the transfer market.
The Norwegian has continually backed De Gea even when he appeared to be making costly mistakes on an almost weekly basis, and if that belief remains, it seems unlikely that Henderson will get the same series of games that allowed him to thrive under Chris Wilder across the Nibs.
“It just shows how profitable some loan deals are,” Solskjaer said ahead of Thursday’s clash. “Dean climbed the ranks and two years at Sheffield United made him really come back as a quality mature keeper.
“He has had some experience with a big promotion and his year in the Premier League last season was very precious for us and for him.
“He is learning more and more of the Man United style. Our game is a little different and we have a couple of different requests from him, but we are very grateful to Sheffield United and Chris who gave him the chance to develop as they did their. “
Wilder would have liked Henderson back this season, and with the Blades abandoned at the bottom of the table with only one lone point in 12 games, he will probably regret not having the youngster to invite this time around.
What will hurt the most, however, is to see Henderson once again among the replacements. The feeling that this season is slowly becoming a wasted season for the cork grows week by week.
Whether it will have the patience to wait remains to be seen.