Dean Henderson has signalled his intent to oust David de Gea as Manchester United’s first-choice goalkeeper and insisted he will not settle for a place on the bench at Old Trafford.
Henderson recently signed a new five-year contract and will be in direct competition with De Gea for the first time when United open their Premier League campaign against Crystal Palace. Following two highly successful seasons on loan at Sheffield United, and almost five years away from Old Trafford, the 23-year-old is returning to his parent club with the intention of securing a regular starting role.
He has warned De Gea, whose form has deteriorated markedly in recent seasons, that he is relishing the challenge of replacing the Spaniard. Henderson said: “The aim is for me to play football next season and I don’t want to be not playing after last season. Coming off a good season with momentum, it wouldn’t be clever for me to sit around and not play football. I don’t think that would help any parties at all.”
He added: “David de Gea has been a great goalkeeper first and foremost for many years. He’s been phenomenal. That’s something I aspire to be, to have a career like him at the club, so I’ll be going back in first day of the pre-season working my bollocks off to get in that starting lineup because it’s something I’ve always wanted.
“I’m so close now so I’m not going to give up – I’m going to put the pressure on. I respect David, he’s been a phenomenal servant for the football club and if not one of the best in recent years. It’s down to me. I know what challenges are ahead. I’m well up for it.”
Henderson has yet to make a senior appearance for United having joined at 14. He had loan spells with Stockport, Grimsby and Shrewsbury before helping Sheffield United rise into the Premier League and he believes he is on course to complete the career path he predicted.
“I said at 23 I’ll go back [to United] and that’ll be my time. I remember sitting in the interview room at Grimsby when I said it. I knew what I needed to do, I knew what I needed to tick off before I got there. I’ve done that and hope I can get to where I want to be.
“You can get many things from training, and obviously learn off someone like David and the other goalkeepers and goalkeeper coaches, but I don’t think there’s any substitute for game time. I went out from Man United five years ago. I started at Stockport, Grimsby, Shrewsbury and then Sheffield, which shows how much I’ve learned out on my own. I’ve picked up experiences that happen in games because they’re situations you don’t really get in training. I’m under no illusions that I’m not going to improve just sat on the bench. I need that game time.”
The No 1 spot is not only up for grabs at United, with Jordan Pickford’s place in the England team at risk following an erratic season for Everton. Henderson says he accepts he cannot be first choice for his country unless he has usurped De Gea at United, but believes he is capable of achieving both targets.
“I know what I’ve got to do,” added the United man, speaking on England duty after being selected in Gareth Southgate’s squad for Saturday’s Nations League game in Iceland and Tuesday’s in Denmark. “I’ve got two very good goalkeepers here with me [Pickford and Nick Pope] and we’re all challenging for the No 1 shirt. It’s something that I aspire to be so I’m working hard every single day to do what I can do to be classed as Gareth’s No 1.”
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