Manchester United head into Sunday’s Premier League home clash against Brighton with a question mark hanging over which of David De Gea or Dean Henderson will play in goal.
While this season has seen Henderson mainly used in cups, he has featured in the last six matches in all competitions after De Gea returned to Spain for the birth of his first child.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has refused to confirm which of the pair will start on Sunday and said he faces a “difficult decision”.
Here, the PA news agency takes a comparative look at De Gea and Henderson.
A glance at the stats
It is difficult to compare the two keepers based on their league records this term, given the significant difference in the number of appearances made. De Gea has played 24 times, keeping nine clean sheets and conceding 29 times, while for Henderson the numbers are six, three and three – and each has made one error leading to a goal.
Looking at last season, they made 38 and 36 appearances respectively, both registering 13 shut-outs. De Gea conceded 36 times and made three errors leading to goals – for Henderson, who was on loan at Sheffield United, it was 33 conceded and just one error.
One element that has been spoken about in recent times as a weakness for De Gea is claiming crosses. The Spaniard made nine high claims in the league in 2019-20, which is seven fewer than Henderson at 16, and this season the Spaniard has two to Henderson’s three despite the latter’s comparative lack of games. It is interesting to also note that last term Henderson had higher figures than De Gea for number of passes (934 to 786), passes per match (25.94 to 20.68) and accurate long balls (265 to 96).
Henderson’s recent mistake in the Europa League match against AC Milan proved a reminder of De Gea’s shot-stopping prowess. But Henderson’s distribution has stood out during his run in the side and the Englishman’s delivery from the back has contributed to a couple of goals in United’s recent wins over Real Sociedad and Manchester City.
So who plays against Brighton?
There seems little doubt that, as Solskjaer said on Friday, Manchester United have “two top goalkeepers”. The Norwegian also said he was sure both will get game time between now and the end of the season. And with regards to the immediate short-term, many may argue that, with what he offers overall in terms of his reliable shot-stopping, the experienced De Gea – who alongside Phil Jones is the only surviving member of the 2013 Premier League-winning squad – is the best choice to start.
In terms of what happens after the season ends, it could be that what United think is best for the club is Henderson – who has kept nine clean sheets in his last 13 appearances for them in all competitions – becoming their undisputed number one. De Gea, 30, is on a considerable wage after signing a new contract in 2019 that runs to 2023, with the option to extend by another year. United might look to cash in on him at a time when, in 24-year-old Henderson, they have an academy product who has already shone in the Premier League and played for England, and is expected only to improve.