Manchester United have a goalkeeping problem...
Well, Manchester United have a lot of problems at the moment. Off the back of a dismal campaign, the club seems to have been in a constant state of turmoil since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club 6 years ago.
If you spoke to any United fan in the dawn of the 2018/19 season, they might pick a multitude of holes in their side, however, between the sticks the Red Devils were the pick of the competition.
With the Premier League's leading goalkeeper in David De Gea and arguably the league's best back up goalkeeper in Argentina number one Sergio Romero, Old Trafford could at least be assured in their keeping stocks.
However after a poor World Cup campaign where the Spaniard made terrible mistakes against Portugal, De Gea and United have had a far from ideal campaign.
Finishing sixth in the league, the United keeper in 38 Premier League matches conceded a huge 54 goals and managed only a measly 7 clean sheets (12th in the league) a stark contrast to only 28 goals conceded and 18 clean sheets (1st in the league) in the 17/18 season.
More damning than De Gea's fall from form is the dangerous prospect of the Spaniard leaving the club, a proposition toyed with in the past but now edging closer to a frightening reality.
With the keeper set to contemplate his future of the next few weeks, suitors PSG are eyeing his signature as a replacement to the departing Gigi Buffon.
However it appears Manchester United have a silver lining in the form of goalkeeping prodigy Dean Henderson. The United loanee has had a simply sensational season with the now promoted Sheffield United, and has emerged as one of Europe's top young keepers.
The story so far
A key cog in the Sheffield United Championship campaign, the loanee has expressed publicly that he is looking to join the blades in the premier league next season, but with the departure of De Gea imminent, it would be remiss of the red devils to let such a talent walk away from the club. With the clubs policy of youth development along with Henderson's outstanding season, it is a realistic scenario that Henderson will feature between the sticks next season at Old Trafford as United's number 1.
Henderson joined the United academy at age 14 and after 5 years in the system he signed his first professional season-long loan at League Two side Grimsby Town in the 2016/17 season. Although not the first-choice goalkeeper at Blundell Park, in his 10 appearances with the club he conceded only 9 goals and achieved a huge 5 clean sheets.
The season following the prodigy went from strength to strength signing for League One side Shrewsbury Town. Now an established first-choice keeper, Henderson made 48 appearances for the club conceding a mere 39 goals and keeping an impressive 19 clean sheets. This splendid season saw the 20 year old included in the PFA League One Team of the Season.
In a satisfyingly linear growth, the 18/19 season saw Henderson move up a rung of English football to the championship, signed as a key component to Chris Wilder's promotion push. In an unprecedented season of success which saw the Blades finish in 2nd place, Henderson was a mainstay in goals.
Featuring a total of 46 times in the EFL Championship, Henderson conceded a meagre 41 one goals and kept a colossal 21 clean sheets, comfortably the most in the Championship.
By way of goalkeeping statistics, Henderson made a total of 111 saves in the Championship at an average of 2.4 saves per game. This is comprised of 58 saves of shots taken from inside the box, 47 saves from shots outside the box as well as 6 saves from shots inside the six-yard box. Remarkably, the Sheffield goalkeeper also managed an assist in the campaign, with a long ball launched upfield to Mark Duffy who then proceeded to score from distance in their 4-1 win over Aston Villa.
Despite being edged out of the Championship team of the season by Middlesbrough's Darren Randolph, the 22-year-old was recognised internally winning Sheffield United's Young Player of the Year award along with the Community Player of the Year award.
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
Standing at 188cm (6ft 2inch), Henderson is a commanding keeper who has outstanding shot-stopping abilities, with his extraordinary reflexes on show from shots anywhere on the pitch.
He is a goalkeeper with outstanding concentration, alert to danger at all times highlighted by the dearth of goals he has conceded from outside the area. In his 46 games between the sticks he has only conceded 4 goals from shots outside the box, two of which have been free kicks and one from a deflection. This trait will be savoured in the Premier League, with the quality of players able to shoot from long range being of the highest order.
As an alert keeper he is also impressive in one-on-one situations with the ability to make himself very big.
Along with his sublime shot-stopping abilities, he is also extremely consistent for a 22 year-old where mistakes are few and far between. Despite his glaring blunder at Villa, the keeper has only been questioned in 2 or 3 of the paltry 41 goals he conceded in the championship.
Furthermore, Henderson is clearly a presence at the back with his ability to control the defence obvious with the Blades boasting the equal best defensive record in the championship.
The one area of his game which he should look to improve upon as he grows in experience and maturity is his distribution. When it comes to long balls, the keeper has only operated at 28% long ball accuracy at an average of 5.2 accurate long balls a game. This stat is something that he will look to ameliorate in the high quality Premier League next season.
WHAT HAVE THEY SAID?
Throughout the season, Dean Henderson has received many plaudits from his coaches and teammates. (all quotes sourced from www.sufc.co.uk)
When signing for the club on a season-long loan, coach Chris Wilder stated: "We've know a lot about Dean for the last two or three seasons really and we've tracked his progress. He was the outstanding goalkeeper in the EFL last year in my opinion."
Following an impressive start to the season, the Sheffield boss commented: "Deano is a top boy, he's a good kid and as daft as a brush. But he is committed and you've all seen his reactions to our goals and his attitude is excellent. Everyone here thinks the world of him.
"He's had a good start to his United career and long may that continue. He's big enough and ugly enough to handle the banter and that's part of his character, in time he might calm down a bit...he plays the game with really genuine character and enthusiasm and that's what gets him going, you need that to play for our football club.The expectations are there to produce performances and get results and Deano is certainly doing his bit at the moment. He's ambitious (and) he's got belief in his own ability".
After Henderson's rare poor performance against Aston Villa, the young keeper backed up that disappointment with 7 consecutive clean sheets. His manager added: "He's a talented young boy who came roaring back from a couple of mistakes at Aston Villa, as did the team, because that was a bitterly disappointing night for everyone and the reaction was fantastic to see."
Following his outstanding season, Wilder glowed: "Dean has been first-class for us...He is playing extremely well and playing a part in what have been consistently good team performances. He's up there with the best in the division...and I wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't in contention for accolades come the end of the season."
Sheffield's veteran captain Billy Sharp praised the keeper saying: "Dean Henderson has been excellent, producing big saves at crucial times".
Fellow teammate George Baldock spoke of Henderson after an outstanding performance against Birmingham commenting: "We've probably got Dean Henderson to thank for the points, he made a couple of great saves. The one in the first-half was a fantastic save and the one towards the death was even better, so we're delighted for him."
Mark Duffy, the Blades midfielder, commended on the prodigy proclaiming: "It's Dean (Henderson) first season at this level and he's been brilliant for us."
So clearly this season for Dean Henderson has been nothing short of sensational. But the real question is where to next? Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær has stated in recent days: "Let's see what we do with Dean...he's obviously won promotion with Sheffield United and that's been fantastic for him. If he plays a year in the Premier League for them, it might be the best thing."
So it seems the keeper will get his wish of joining the Blades into the 2019/20 Premier League season. However, if De Gea departs the Red Devils, don't be surprised to see the name Dean Henderson between the sticks at Old Trafford next season.