When Dean Henderson pulled out of the England squad in the summer citing a minor injury, it was expected he would be back early at Manchester United to stake a strong claim for the number one spot.
Henderson returned to training on July 13, and looked to be on course to try and get ahead of David de Gea and start the season as number one.
Days before he returned to training, Henderson had told Talksport that his hip injury which ruled him out of the Euros was a painful one and had impacted him at the end of last season at United, and he was left mentally and physically shattered.
Then oddly, Henderson disappeared. He was not in the squad for United’s pre-season friendly at Derby, and curiously absent from the week long training camp in Surrey. United have now explained why.
In a statement on the official website, the club wrote: “Dean Henderson will miss Manchester United’s Scotland training camp while he continues his recovery from prolonged fatigue after contracting a COVID-19 infection three weeks ago. He is expected to be training again soon.”
De Gea in pole for opener
A big decision was awaiting manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the next fortnight over who would start in goal against Leeds United in the Premier League opener.
Both Henderson and De Gea had strong claims and were expected to each get 45 minutes against Everton next weekend. Now Henderson’s involvement in the match at all looks questionable.
For the illness to still be impacting Henderson three weeks on shows it is not a simple one to resolve, and there is no guarantee it will clear up in a few days time.
Henderson may be younger than De Gea and appear to be the better long-term prospect of the two, but in the here and now, the Spanish goalkeeper suddenly seems like a far safer option for the opening game. Tom Heaton is there as a back-up.
Implications beyond the Leeds game
Once De Gea begins the season as number one, it will become harder to leave him out, barring an error.
Henderson will want to play this season, and it is possible this ends up forcing the goalkeeper’s hand to look for a loan move.
If De Gea settles as number one behind a new look United backline strengthened by Raphael Varane, it is going to be tough for Henderson to force his way in and get the game time he will want.
Henderson could settle for going out on loan for the season, there could be plenty of takers, and challenge again next year for United’s number one spot, dependent on the type of season he and De Gea both have.
Previously it had appeared Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had to make a tough 50/50 choice over who started in goal, and there was no clue over which way he might lean.
Now it appears very likely De Gea will begin the opener. He joined up with the team in Scotland for a mini-training camp on Monday and now has an advantage over Henderson as he is healthy.
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