English Premier League

The Goalkeeping Conundrum Man United Face at the End of the Season

Unlike many teams in the Premier League, Manchester United are blessed with having two first-team quality keepers within their ranks and having one out on loan. Despite a mixed season in goal, de Gea is arguably one of the best keepers in football today. Despite losing 3-1 to Man City in the first leg of the League Cup Semi, De Gea pulled off 3-4 world-class saves to remind everyone why he is still United’s no. 1. He probably will retain that status until he decides to leave, retire or if United feel it is time to cash in.

His no. 2 is probably one of the most underrated goalkeepers of all time, Sergio Romero. The only times he has played as the starting keeper were three seasons for AZ Alkmaar and two seasons with Sampdoria. Despite this, he has been Argentina’s main goalkeeper between 2010 and 2017. While Argentina does not boast many options in the goalkeeping department as they do in practically every other position, Romero has been consistent for the national team. He has replicated that form for United time after time in cup games. It must be frustrating for a player of Romero’s quality to be limited to the Europa League and various cup games.

Finally, United possess a real gem of a player in Dean Henderson. On loan at Sheffield United, he has amassed a total of 7 clean sheets which is four more than David de Gea’s total of 3. While he has made some grievous errors, he has also produced excellent displays and making crucial saves. If he maintains his current form, Henderson has the potential to become not only United’s starting goalkeeper but also the England No.1 as well.

With Lee Grant expected to leave at the end of the season when his contract expires, Manchester United need to plan how they will utilize these players in front of goal. While Dean Henderson is still young, he needs some playing time at Manchester United. Making him the No. 2 keeper is the right step forward for the club. Henderson is a bright prospect, but Manchester United are no Sheffield United. The pressure playing for the Red Devils is enormous, with literally a hundred million eyes watching you every single game. With Henderson, the club needs to employ a similar model as to that with Mason Greenwood. The Europa League has served as a brilliant platform for academy players like Greenwood, James Garner, and Brandon Williams. Making Henderson the starting domestic cup keeper with cameo Premier League appearances ensures he is eased into the first team setup while gaining much needed playing time.

Henderson’s promotion means either David de Gea or Romero has to leave. With Lee Grant’s appearing to leave at the end of his contract this summer, the 3rd Keeper position should either be occupied by Joel Castro Perreria or Kieran O’Hara. In reality, Romero and even more so de Gea need playing time. So if Manchester United do not cash in on de Gea, Romero should seek a move elsewhere. Turning only 33 in February, he has much more to offer than playing a back-up role to de Gea and potentially Henderson. If Romero were to leave United, there would be a range of suitors lined up to acquire his signature. After all, he has had 32 clean sheets in 52 appearances for the club.

If United cash in on de Gea, Romero is more than capable of being United’s No. 1. Even though he is not of de Gea’s stature, he can get the job done. Furthermore, de Gea has been on some ridiculous wages for some time now. Offloading de Gea right now makes the most sense given the current trajectory Ole wants to take – placing trust in the young British players. Were de Gea to stay for another ten years, United will surely lose Henderson just like how they lost Sam Johnstone in 2018 to West Brom. Johnstone has been brilliant for West Brom this season as the club mounts a serious push for promotion.

This goalkeeping headache is part of a more significant issue faced by United. For some time now, many talented British youth players have opted to join the ranks of the blue side of Manchester. The drop in quality of youth players was evident with the United Under-23s relegated to the second division of the U-23 league in 2018. Under Sir Alex, Manchester United have always had a system in place to acquire some of the most promising youngsters across the globe, let alone in Britain. However, even with the signing of Hannibal Mejibri, more must be done to show they are reverting their focus on youth development. For most of the last five years, there appears to be a lack of faith placed in youth – especially so during Mourinho’s time in charge where youth academy prospects barely featured except for McTominay. Perhaps most players were nowhere the standard necessary or maybe Mourinho believed in polished players as opposed to experimenting with youth. What is certain is that Ole needs to play Henderson not just because he is a good player but also due to the greater underlying concern that United do not field their youth.

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