Dean Henderson has his sights set on establishing himself as Manchester United’s No.1 and his efforts on Tuesday night will have done his claims no harm at all.
The 23-year-old was drafted into the side, as expected, for the FA Cup fifth-round win over West Ham and put in a 7/10 display.
He could not have scored any higher because his evening was a quiet one. But the former Sheffield United loanee was confident and competent in the few times he was called upon.
The Hammers mustered just a single shot on target and Henderson duly kept a clean sheet in the 1-0 – his sixth shut-out in 11 games.
Ahead of the game Ole Gunnar Solskjaer referred to the keeper “as not the most patient guy”. It’s obvious from the speculation last summer over whether Henderson would stay or go, that he has set the bar high.
Henderson wanted the top job at Old Trafford after two successful years on loan with the Blades.
ESPN claim that Henderson and his representatives are comfortable with Solskjaer’s plan for this season. Which appears to be to play Henderson in the cup games and play David de Gea in the Premier League.
However, if things don’t change next season then Henderson may well rock the boat. And the key factor in Henderson’s progression will be his improved footwork.
Solskjaer alluded to the fact that Henderson has been asked to work on his game.
“He’s working hard on a couple of aspects that we’ve spoken about with him. I’ve been impressed with his attitude and work-rate,” said Solskjaer the Norwegian ahead of the win over West Ham.
And at half-time, rather than taking instructions from Solskjaer, Henderson was out on the pitch. With a coach he was going through passing drills, not handling techniques.
Henderson was ‘clean’
It’s understood that Solskjaer thinks Henderson is getting better with his feet. And he showed quick feet and confidence to turn Tomas Soucek in his own six-yard box late on.
“I always hope our keeper has a quiet night when we play, and most of the time it’s happened that way. Today [Henderson] was clean in everything,” said Solskjaer said. “Going through is always the main thing in the cup. I was very pleased with the mentality, the attitude and going through.”
So if Henderson can keep developing his game with his feet then the future his bright. His handling and the commanding of his box was good against West Ham. Notably when the pressure was on late in extra-time he came to claim Aaron Cresswell’s free-kick.
As Solskjaer pointed out, the challenge at United is to stay switched on when you don’t have much of the ball.
“David has been used to this for years: to keep concentrated, keep your eye on the ball and suddenly one moment comes up and you have to make a save,” said Solskjaer.