Tom Heaton has a point to prove at Manchester United. The returning goalkeeper was, at first glance, signed as third-choice. But he may have other ideas.
This pre-season will give the 35-year-old the ideal chance to impress. He is likely to get starts, with Dean Henderson only recently returning from injury and David de Gea on an extended break following Euro 2020.
And United’s new signing has plenty left in the tank.
The battle between Henderson and De Gea could come to a head this summer. Given the presence of Lee Grant at Old Trafford, it is unlikely that Heaton would have been signed if last year’s first and second-choice stoppers were set to stay.
Most likely, De Gea will leave (potentially on loan), leaving Henderson to cement his deserved place as undisputed number one. And Heaton could then be reserve ‘keeper behind the young Englishman.
There are lots of ifs, buts and maybes. But United suddenly have a lot of quality between the sticks
Heaton was flying at former club Aston Villa before injury struck. And he would be first-choice at plenty of top-flight teams.
Upcoming friendlies allow United’s new man to prove his worth. And he will surely start more than once this summer given the need to bring Henderson back slowly.
With 65 clean sheets in 200 games for Burnley, there is no doubting Heaton’s quality. He may have never made a first-team breakthrough at United but times have changed.
A point to prove
United have a few players for whom pre-season will be huge. Heaton is one of them, along with the likes of Alex Telles and James Garner.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has some decisions to make ahead of his first friendly this weekend.
The Red Devils may not be facing the same Hollywood opponents as most summers, but that is no bad thing.
United are facing English sides desperate to start their own summers in the best possible way. That makes these games more testing than the usual tour games.
United face Derby on Sunday and Heaton may well start. De Gea is absent and Henderson will want to be 100% before he risks his injured hip.
That leaves United’s surprise summer signing with a big chance to impress.