Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted it’s becoming more and more difficult to leave Dean Henderson out of his Manchester United side as he weighs up his goalkeeping dilemma for the trip to West Brom.
David de Gea’s blunder against Everton a week ago has reopened the debate over United’s No. 1 and Henderson did his case no harm with an assured performance against West Ham in midweek.
That was the academy graduate’s 10th start of the season in all competitions and his fifth clean sheet, but only two of those starts have been in the Premier League – when De Gea was out injured against West Ham and against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, where Henderson had spent the previous two years on loan.
The return of Henderson, 23, to United this summer signalled the start of a battle to be first-choice but it also heralded a return to form for De Gea in the early weeks of the season.
Recently the Spaniard’s standards have slipped again, however, culminating in the error that allowed Everton back into the game at Old Trafford last weekend.
De Gea’s bumper new six-year contract, signed in the summer of 2019, could make axing him from the Premier League team a difficult decision, but Solskjaer insists his selections will be based purely on performances.
“I think the whole squad knows and everyone knows they have to perform to be in the team. We have I would say at least two players in every position that would feel that ‘I am a first choice’ and the keeper position is no different to the right-back, left-back or centre-forward position,” he said.
“It’s about your performances and what you give to the team. So I am in a very fortunate position to have the goalkeeper department that I do have and it was a conscious decision obviously to bring Dean back to have real competition in that position as well.
“And Dean has made it harder and harder for me, of course, to leave him out because whenever he plays he does really well.”
Henderson has made no secret of his own desire to be No. 1 for United and England. The latter of those ambitions will be impossible to achieve if he continues to play second fiddle to De Gea at Old Trafford.
That could soon present a problem to Solskjaer and keeping both Henderson and De Gea happy looks to be an impossible long-term aim, but the United boss has told his goalkeepers that it is up to them to please him, rather than the other way around.
“It’s not my job to keep any players happy, it’s not like I’m going round telling them jokes and giving them games just to keep them happy,” he said.
“Of course we know here that we’re in a competitive environment, we’re at Man United, we’re here to win and it’s about having the best possible chance to win and you need performances. It’s more their job to keep me happy and give me more and more reasons to pick them and that’s the way it is.”