Could Dean Henderson Return To Manchester United As Their No. 1 Goalkeeper? – Forbes

It has been over 40 years since Manchester United were able to produce their own established goalkeeper. 

That was when Garry Bailey emerged from the club’s youth ranks in 1978 to occupy the number one shirt for the next eight years.

Since then, United have had to venture in to the transfer market to find their goalkeepers who have hailed from all across the world, including Denmark, Australia, Italy, France, the United States, the Netherlands and Spain.

United have continued to nurture a succession of talented young keepers within their youth teams, but none have been good enough to make the step up and dislodge these expensive foreign imports.

But could Dean Henderson buck the trend and become the first home-grown goalkeeper to establish himself in the United first team since Bailey?  

The England Under-21 international has yet to play for United, but is currently on loan at Sheffield United where he has been a resounding success.

At the age of 14 Henderson joined United’s youth academy, where he was quickly recognised as a rare and special talent.

He was too good to fester in the youth ranks for long and from 18 was sent out on several loan spells to Stockport County, Grimsby Town and Shrewsbury Town, and even called back twice to Old Trafford to be an unused substitute for the first team.

At the start of the 2018-19 campaign he arrived at Bramall Lane and immediately helped them win promotion to the Premier League last season.

The Blades were desperate to keep hold of him for their return to the top flight, and were relieved when United consented to extend his loan for another season, but only after they were certain David De Gea would be staying at Old Trafford.

If the Spaniard had forced a move away from United, Henderson is so highly rated there was a suggestion they wouldn’t enter the transfer market for a replacement, but simply recall him.

Henderson, who signed a new 3-year contract at United this year, has continued to excel for Sheffield United in the Premier League this season.

The 22-year-old has been an ever present as the Blades have risen as high as fifth in the Premier League table, conceding only 9 goals in 12 games, the second best record in the Premier League.

Henderson has also kept five clean sheets, the joint best record alongside Manchester City’s Ederson and Leicester City’s Kasper Schmeichel.

The England manager Gareth Southgate rewarded Henderson’s impressive early season form with a call-up to the full England squad for their recent internationals against Montenegro and Kosovo this month.

“He has been outstanding,” the Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has said. “It is no surprise what he has done. He has been neat and tidy in his work and is a really good goalkeeper.”

Since arriving in Yorkshire Henderson has played 58 consecutive league games, however he will not be able to play against his parent club when United are the visitors to Bramall Lane this Sunday.

But could Henderson ever return to Old Trafford and wear the number one shirt for United?

At the moment, De Gea represents a significant obstacle to that happening.

After 18 months of torturous negotiations, De Gea finally signed a new contract with United in September this year, which commits him to the club for the next four years.

De Gea is still only 28-years-old, several years from his peak, and despite a brief loss of form last season, shows no signs of any real decline.  

United are paying him a salary of up to £350,000 a week, the highest ever commanded by a goalkeeper, because they rightly believe he is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, and arguably the very best to ever play for the club.

It is feasible the Spaniard could stand between the goal posts at Old Trafford for at least another decade.

Edwin van der Sar was 40 when he played his last game for United in the 2011 Champions League final.

None of this will offer much consolation to the ambitious Henderson, who believes he is an elite goalkeeper who should be playing at Old Trafford.

But barring an unexpected collapse in form from De Gea, Henderson knows it will be difficult to barge his way past him.

His only hope is De Gea returns to Spain in the near future, but after signing his new contract this appears a lot less likely.

It leaves United knowing they have a special talent in Henderson, but for now, not knowing how they can offer him a path in to the first team.