When Manchester United signed Tom Heaton this summer, it seemed the 35-year-old would be very much third choice. But the veteran’s free transfer looks smarter than ever.

As Dean Henderson recovers from the long-term effects of Covid-19, Heaton has made the match-day squad for every game so far. With those matches coming thick and fast, the summer signing could well start the upcoming League Cup clash against West Ham.

That would give a resurgent David de Gea a well-deserved rest. Considering Heaton’s performances in pre-season, he is unlikely to disappoint.

He may be in his mid-thirties, but Heaton clearly has plenty left to offer. He will have returned to Old Trafford desperate to make that elusive debut – and a few more appearances thereafter. And Henderson’s absence opens that door.

Manchester United v Brentford - Pre-season Friendly
(Photo by Daniel Chesterton/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Given the other players that arrived at United this summer, it is no surprise no one is talking about Heaton. Yet they should be. He is a canny addition, allowing for every eventuality.

Last season it seemed to be a straight battle between De Gea and Henderson for a starting spot. Now Heaton can do a job of his own.

In time, the young England hopeful should return to full fitness and form. But Heaton’s signing means there is no pressure on him to do so.


A very worthy backup

Even if De Gea is injured, United’s current second choice has the experience and the drive to step in.

Cristiano Ronaldo may take the headlines, while Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho show just how far United have come under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but Heaton is not the odd one out.

He may not play much. But, when he does, he is not just there to make up the numbers.

Prior to a serious injury, Heaton was one of the Premier League’s best goalkeepers. And he could soon recapture that form in domestic cup fixtures this side of Christmas.

Whatever happens, it seems United’s gloves are in (and on) safe hands.

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