“He’s not the most patient guy ever,” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remarked when commenting on Dean Henderson’s temperament. And who can blame him?
The 23-year-old goalkeeper has had to sit and play second fiddle to David de Gea at Manchester United this season, despite having been the star of the show for Sheffield United during the two previous campaigns
But given some of the mistakes that the Spain international has made this term, you can forgive Henderson for becoming impatient over his lack of playing time after committing himself to the Red Devils in pre-season.
While De Gea’s errors have been more sporadic in 2020-21 than they were over the previous two campaigns, against Everton on Saturday he was as much to blame as anyone for United’s failure to convert 2-0 and 3-2 leads into anything more than a draw.
“Nobody is guaranteed a place in the team like a season ticket card here,” Solskjaer said ahead of the meeting with the Toffees. “You’ve got to perform to be part of the success of Man Utd.”
He backed that up post-match by insisting that no player’s place is safe in his current line-up, and if those claims hold true then surely De Gea must be on thin ice?
In truth, Henderson will play against West Ham on Tuesday because he has become the team’s cup goalkeeper rather than because of anything De Gea has done, but now he may believe that a strong showing could rubber-stamp his place in Solskjaer’s XI for Sunday’s trip to West Brom.
Aside from two-and-a-half Premier League matches, Henderson has been limited to knockout games and one Champions League group-stage fixture since his return to Old Trafford. In the summer, Solskjaer was strong in his assertions that the academy graduate would get the chance to prove himself, but few would agree that has been followed through on.
“If De Gea makes a mistake in week two, you know what the media are going to say: ‘Is this the moment Henderson comes in?’ Ole is going to have that question hanging over him all the time, potentially, during the season,” explained former United captain Gary Neville back in September.
“It’s something that’s going to provide a challenge for him [Solskjaer] to manage.”
Solskjaer has managed the situation so far, despite De Gea’s failure to react quickly enough to deny Justin Kluivert cited as a major reason for United’s exit from the Champions League at the hands of RB Leipzig.
The fact that the former Atletico Madrid shot-stopper committed a similar error to allow Dominic Calvert-Lewin to score a stoppage-time equaliser on Saturday will have concerned his manager, though, and his failure to command his area speaks to the main difference between he and Henderson.