Manchester United are reported by The Telegraph to be ‘close’ to signing goalkeeper Tom Heaton.

Heaton is a free agent this summer and would fill a back-up role at United, with Sergio Romero and Lee Grant set to leave, also providing United leeway to sell David de Gea, who has fallen to number two.

A move would see Heaton return to Old Trafford after leaving, as a free agent in 2010.

The manner of his exit, departing on a Bosman to join Cardiff City, frustrated manager at the time, Sir Alex Ferguson.

Manchester United v Aston Villa - Premier League
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Heaton explained the situation in a 2019 interview, where he said Fergie was angered by his decision to walk away.

Heaton told The Star: “It was, how do you say, an interesting moment. I ­understood his point of view. I’d been there since I was a kid. He was offering me a new contract and I was turning it down. He wasn’t best pleased!

“So, I was on the end of it a bit. I totally understood it because they had invested a lot of time in me.

“But I knew what was right for me. It was a risk, but it was one I wanted to take. I walked out of his office with my tail between my legs. It needed to be done. It was the right decision. I knew that and I never wavered from it.

“In fairness – and I always say this ­because it’s important to me – two or three weeks down the line, he called me back into his office, and said, ‘I will always be there for you, whenever you need me. I respect your decision’. That meant the world to me.”


United had sent Heaton on six different loan deals and in 2010, the goalkeeping position was in a state of flux, with Van der Sar due to retire at the end of the 2010/11 season.

Later that year United responded to Heaton’s exit by signing Anders Lindegaard, and then a year later, David de Gea was added.

Heaton probably would have been destined for a career as United number two, and he evidently wanted more than that. He signed with Cardiff City, before moving to Bristol City, and more successfully with Burnley, where he earned a call-up for England and went onto play in the Premier League.

With his spell at Aston Villa winding down, Heaton can rejoin United when his current contract expires in June.

Investment finally to pay off

This way, he will bring his situation full circle and finally bring a smile to Sir Alex Ferguson’s face.

Heaton said Fergie was frustrated that United invested so much time in the goalkeeper’s development and then lost him for nothing.

Manchester United Training Session and Press Conference
(Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Now United can re-sign him at no cost, and finally reap the benefits of all the work the club put into helping him enjoy a successful career.

Not everybody can make it at United, but many who do not, still go onto have careers in the top flight. Heaton is one of those.

While only required as a back-up to Dean Henderson, Heaton, 35, can do a job for a couple of years as a number two. On a free transfer, there is little risk, and Heaton will finally get a chance to repay United.

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