David de Gea’s time as Manchester United number one is seemingly over. Yet Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s decision for the Europa League final could mark the official changing of the guard.
For much of his time as manager, Solskjaer has opted for the Spaniard in the biggest games.
De Gea missed all but one Europa League clash last season before returning for the semi-final, which United lost.
He also sat out five FA Cup wins before starting the semi-final defeat to Chelsea.
Similarly, United’s highest-paid player only featured in the EFL Cup when there were four teams left, and he lost again.
This time round, things are different. Dean Henderson has been a regular for the bigger domestic clashes, while De Gea has had make do with European games.
But even that could change come the final.
As has been the case in the past, United have the choice to make between sticking with the man who got them there, or changing it up.
When United last won the Europa League, Sergio Romero kept his place. This time, it would be no surprise if Henderson came in for his more experienced teammate.
After all, United want to win their first trophy under Solskjaer and picking his strongest team is imperative.
De Gea’s performance on Thursday night was brilliant. But it should not paper over the cracks. He still conceded three times and he has made too many mistakes this season.
Apprentice usurps master
The semi-final second leg may have thrown a spanner in the works. After all, there will be some United fans who believe De Gea has done enough to retain his place.
But Solskjaer will be desperate to win a trophy and anything else will be a huge anti-climax.
Henderson is United’s best ‘keeper and, if he starts later this month, it could be the final nail in the proverbial coffin for De Gea.
It used to be the case that the shadow of the Spaniard loomed large over every other stopper at Old Trafford. Now that shadow belongs to Henderson.