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Bringing Henderson back to Man Utd would be win-win for Solskjaer - De Gea needs the competition

Bringing Henderson back to Man Utd would be win-win for Solskjaer - De Gea needs the competition

When Anders Lindegaard challenged De Gea, the Spaniard responded well - Henderson can have a similar effect.

It would be incorrect to claim David de Gea has never suffered a dip in form like the one he is currently experiencing. Indeed, the Manchester United goalkeeper’s recent struggles are reminiscent to the kind he suffered from in his first Premier League season. Skinny and unsure of himself, many doubted whether the Spaniard would ever be able to cope with the demands of the English game. How he showed them.

But now de Gea must show them all over again. The 29-year-old has made a number of blunders this season, with the two goals he gave up against Chelsea on Sunday essentially costing his team a place in the FA Cup final. In fact, de Gea’s decline can be traced all the way back to the 2018 World Cup, when a series of poor performances for Spain appeared to shake his confidence. In truth, he hasn’t steadied himself since.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is now facing a question he doesn’t yet have an answer to. It’s not quite clear how the Norwegian can revive de Gea as one of the Premier League’s best goalkeepers, as he was for a number of years, but the Manchester United boss should look at what Sir Alex Ferguson did to steady de Gea back in 2011 for inspiration.

Ferguson didn’t shy away from demanding de Gea prove his worthiness, with the Spaniard dropped for a series of games. Anders Lindegaard was given a chance in the first team and held his own, even playing in a Manchester derby as his Spanish teammate was kept out of the spotlight to learn from his mistakes and refocus his mind.

It worked. When de Gea was restored to the first team, he was physically and mentally sharp. He was every bit a Manchester United number one and never looked back from that point on, earning a reputation as one of the very best goalkeepers of his generation. Ferguson’s man management was exactly what he needed.

Solskjaer now needs a Lindegaard-type figure and in Dean Henderson he might have one. The 23-year-old has proved himself as one of the country’s best young goalkeepers on loan at Sheffield United this season, with many arguing that he should be given a chance to earn the number one jersey at Old Trafford for next season.

Bringing Henderson back to his parent club this summer would almost certainly be a win-win for Solskjaer. If Henderson makes the number one shirt his own, United will have a new goalkeeper then can count on for years to come. And if Henderson provides de Gea with competition for his place, the Spaniard might be pushed to rediscover his form.

De Gea continues to have the backing of his manager, although Solskjaer also praised Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez before sending them packing last summer. “I can't speak for his confidence, but he is mentally very strong,” the Norwegian insisted after the defeat to Chelsea. “Everyone has to perform and has a chance to stake a claim every time they play. It is hard for a keeper to make amends, apart from David making two or three fantastic saves.”

No matter how many times Solskjaer smiles and defends de Gea, though, the Norwegian will ultimately have to take a stance on his goalkeeper. Finding a buyer for the Spaniard, and subsequently a replacement, in this climate will be difficult, so the United boss must work with what he has. Fortunately for him, there may already be a successor to de Gea on the books at Old Trafford. Or at the very least, a Lindegaard.





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Graham Ruthven
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