Tom Heaton has surprise leadership role in Manchester United dressing room

Manchester United struck a deal to sign goalkeeper Tom Heaton as a free agent in the summer of 2021.

The move beefed up United’s goalkeeper ranks, but it’s hardly been a necessary one so far, with appearances limited.

In fact Heaton has only played one competitive game in a Manchester United shirt since joining, as a substitute at home to Young Boys in December 2021.

He is United’s third choice goalkeeper at present, with Martin Dubravka signed to be the main back-up to David de Gea. But manager Erik ten Hag is utilising him in another way.

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Heaton given leadership role

A report in The Telegraph claims Heaton is regarded as one of Manchester United’s dressing room leaders by Erik ten Hag.

He is one of four players forming a core leadership group, along with captain Harry Maguire, vice-captain Bruno Fernandes, and fellow goalkeeper David de Gea.

The group notably does not include Cristiano Ronaldo, which is somewhat understandable considering his desire to leave the club in the summer.

Heaton was on the bench at the weekend against City, with Martin Dubravka out injured, although the Slovakian has since returned. Both goalkeepers have travelled along with David de Gea for the Omonia game.

Ten Hag’s decision to involve Heaton as a senior voice is probably a smart one. The veteran was part of United’s academy under Sir Alex Ferguson and will be able to impart some wisdom in regard to the club’s previous standards.

Heaton, 36, is a former England international, and if he is unlikely to play matches, Ten Hag needs to find a way for him to contribute in another way, and this could be it.

The back-up goalkeeper’s contract expires at the end of the season, although United have an option to extend it.

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