Tom Heaton arrived at Manchester United as the club’s first summer deal. And yet it still felt like a little bit of an afterthought where supporters were concerned.
United had signed Heaton as back-up for both Dean Henderson and David de Gea, both of who remain at the club.
While the intention may have been to move Heaton up from third choice to second choice if one of the pair leaves, at present he remains number three.
And yet, curiously, Heaton is in with a shot of beginning the 2021/22 season as a starter for United.
He is ready if needed
Heaton has started all three of Manchester United’s pre-season friendly matches.
While United conceded four away at QPR, three of those goals were after he had been substituted off. Likewise the goal conceded away at Derby, with Lee Grant conceding four of the five goals across the opening two games in total.
There was little Heaton could do about the quality of Brentford’s goals at Old Trafford last Wednesday.
The advantage Heaton has is that David de Gea and Dean Henderson may not be ready.
Both players have returned to training now after a summer away, with De Gea at Euro 2020 with Spain, even though he did not play.
Henderson has been dealing with an injury and this will make United cautious about rushing him back.
When United face Everton in the final pre-season friendly match next Saturday, it is probable both Henderson and De Gea will each get 45 minutes.
If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is concerned neither player will be physically or mentally ready to kick off against Leeds next weekend, Heaton could be called upon.
Another scenario could be that Henderson is deemed not fully fit, and Solskjaer does not wish to play De Gea, because it will be tougher to drop him again, if his long-term goal is to establish Henderson as the regular starter. It is still unclear which direction Solskjaer is leaning for his number one goalkeeper this coming season.
Heaton showed in July that he is no slouch, and even at 35, he is more than capable of playing at a high level, especially with a strong defence in front of him.
The smart money would be on one of De Gea or Henderson lining up at Old Trafford on August 14 against Leeds. But it would not be a total surprise if Tom Heaton gets the call due to the shortened summer for both players.
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