The former Red Devils defender cannot see the pecking order between the sticks at Old Trafford changing just yet
David de Gea “definitely starts as number one” for Manchester United next season, according to Gary Neville, who says Dean Henderson still has “a lot to prove”.
Not so long ago, De Gea was revered as the world’s finest goalkeeper, having spared United’s blushes on numerous occasions as the last line of defence during a frustrating transitional period.
However, the Spaniard has occasionally seen his standards slip under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with basic handling and positioning errors creeping into his game over the past two seasons.
The 29-year-old has cost the Red Devils valuable points in the Premier League, while also letting the team down in cup competitions, with calls for him to be dropped from the starting XI widespread since an FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea in July.
United decided against sending Henderson for a third season on loan at Sheffield United last week, and also handed the 23-year-old a bumper new five-year contract.
The England shot-stopper has been tipped to replace De Gea between the sticks when Solskjaer’s men kick off their latest campaign against Crystal Palace on September 19, but Neville doesn’t think his old club will give up on an experienced performer just yet.
“De Gea definitely starts as number one because there was a point where Ole could’ve dropped him towards the end of the season,” the Red Devils legend told Sky Sports. “However, he stuck with him at that point and we are only around four weeks later.
“I still think Henderson’s got a lot to prove. Playing in goal for Sheffield United is a lot different than standing out there in that vacuous, empty, massive space which is the goal mouth at Old Trafford, when the team are up at the other end of the pitch most of the time attacking and then all of sudden you’ve got your first interaction with the game after 15 minutes and your concentration is tested like never before.
“I think it’s a very different expectation. It’s not a given that he’s going to go into the team at Manchester United and be everything that everyone thinks he’s going to be.
“He hasn’t got the experience yet to handle Old Trafford or to show us that he can handle Old Trafford. We hope he can show the potential he’s got but that’s the hardest position on a football field by a long way.
“It’s the biggest pressure on a football field and I think the Manchester United goalkeeping position, I would argue, is one of the most pressurised positions in English football.”
Neville added on the negative impact rotating De Gea and Henderson regularly could potentially have on the team: “The easiest thing in the world would be that they both play lots of games.
“Henderson plays in the cups and De Gea plays in the league. They’ve got an agreement of how it’s going to work this season and then there’s a transition in a year’s time.
“That might be something that could happen, but it doesn’t feel like that’s going to happen because De Gea will want to be number one, he’ll want to be the undisputed number one and Henderson will want his spot.
“It’s the one position where you can’t have uncertainty. You have to be definite with it because it really unnerves the rest of the team, the defence and the stadium.
“I believe it creates anxiety when the goalkeeper isn’t settled.”