Dean Henderson grabs his chance to give David de Gea cause for concern

Dean Henderson grabs his chance to give David de Gea cause for concern – the 23-year-old goalkeeper produced an assured display against Manchester City in the Spaniard’s absence

  • David de Gea missed Sunday’s Manchester derby to attend the birth of his child
  • The Spaniard won’t return to the United side until after the international break
  • Dean Henderson kept his ninth clean sheet during United’s 2-0 win at the Etihad
  • The 23-year-old keeper also played a vital part in creating Luke Shaw’s goal 

Unless his duties as a new dad were keeping him otherwise engaged, David de Gea would have been watching the 185th Manchester derby on a TV screen in Spain on Sunday.

For the first time in nearly a decade, the Manchester United goalkeeper wasn’t lining up in a Premier League game against Manchester City; a sequence spanning 19 derbies since United’s 6-1 defeat to their neighbours in October 2011.

It would be fascinating to hear De Gea’s thoughts as a spectator on this occasion, and in particular the performance of the young man who now has the position of United’s No 1 firmly in his sights.

David de Gea missed the Manchester Derby to attend the birth of his child in his native Spain

Dean Henderson has never made any secret of his intention to depose De Gea since returning to the club after two years on loan at Sheffield United in October.

Satisfying the 23-year-old’s ambitions while respecting De Gea’s status as first-choice has been an awkward balancing act for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ever since, but the events of last week felt like a critical shift in that process.

Of course, Solskjaer was showing a human touch by signing De Gea off until after the international break so he could be with his partner Edurne Garcia in Spain following the birth of their baby daughter Yanay.

But would the United manager have given Bruno Fernandes a month off going into a crucial run of games in the league, Europe and FA Cup? Harry Maguire? Marcus Rashford?

Dean Henderson replaced De Gea in goal and put in an assured display for the Red Devils

The break also allows Solskjaer to indulge Henderson’s craving for more minutes, and meant the England goalkeeper started back-to-back league games for the first time at the Etihad in front of the watching Gareth Southgate.

Pressing his international claims ahead of Euro 2020 has also been uppermost in Henderson’s mind, and in that sense too the timing of De Gea’s hiatus has worked out well for him.

The opportunity is there and it’s clear we were watching United’s next No.1 on Sunday. It’s just a question of when Solskjaer makes that transition, and his handling of the situation when De Gea returns will be intriguing.

Henderson did his cause the power of good with a ninth clean sheet in 15 appearances this season, in what is likely to be the toughest of the matches he is set to play in De Gea’s absence.

Manchester City will be frustrated that they didn’t test Henderson on more occasions 

City will be kicking themselves that they didn’t do more to test him. Henderson turned away a shot from Oleksandr Zinchenko in the first half and produced a rather unconvincing parry from Riyad Mahrez’s effort in injury-time that could have been punished on another occasion.

Otherwise, he took it all in his stride as City, for once, were found wanting in front of goal. Rodri hit the upright, Raheem Sterling fluffed a chance from close-range and Mahrez fired wide of the post but that was about it.

Henderson even had a hand in United’s second goal, releasing an excellent quick throw to Luke Shaw who made the break and then finished the move with a low shot.

‘He’s just growing, getting more and more mature,’ said Solskjaer afterwards. ‘I’m very happy with him. His presence out there, there’s a future top keeper there.’

Henderson played a vital role in Luke Shaw’s (right) goal which put United 2-0 up at the Etihad

The manager’s appraisal brought agreement from his old teammate Roy Keane on Sky Sports.

‘The goalkeeper was excellent,’ said Keane. ‘Ole used the word presence and that’s what all great goalkeepers have. I think this kid has great chance of being a brilliant goalkeeper for Man United.’

Back home in Madrid, De Gea replied to a celebratory tweet from the club’s official account with a happy emoji. He will be pleased for his teammates, and particularly for Henderson, but it’s clear their battle has entered a new phase.

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