Where Is Dean Henderson? De Gea's Former Heir Eyes Man United Exit

The England international is lost in the shuffle, but a new start beckons
15:00, 10 Jul 2023

Now that Mason Mount is wearing the famous red, and rattling his former fanbase in the process, the talk at Old Trafford has turned to goalkeepers. Manchester United waved goodbye to one this weekend, when David De Gea’s departure became official after 12 years at the club. They could well be welcoming another custodian this week, as Inter Milan’s Andre Onana is the subject of negotiations. There has been plenty of talk about how the Red Devils will likely play their first pre-season friendly, against Leeds on 12th July, with 37-year-old Tom Heaton between the sticks. Which begs the question, where in the world is Dean Henderson?

The short answer is “Carrington”. After a year on loan at Nottingham Forest, the England international is currently at United’s training complex. Henderson is working on getting back to fitness after the thigh injury that ended his season in January. Once seen as the heir apparent if De Gea were ever to leave, why is the 26-year-old not being measured for the number one jersey?


The truth is his relationship with the club appears irrevocably broken. While not a troublemaker by any stretch, and a willing trainer, Henderson sees his own future away from Old Trafford. The former Sheffield United loanee had broken through in the 2020/21 season, when a loss of form for De Gea saw then-manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer surveying his options. But when the Norwegian stuck with the Spaniard for the Europa League final defeat to Villarreal, and Henderson watched as De Gea failed to save a single penalty in the shootout and then missed his own, the die was cast.

Henderson actively sought a loan for the following season but was assured he was part of Solskjaer’s plans. He wasn't. Nor did he figure into the thoughts of Ole’s interim replacement, Ralf Rangnick, much either. Henderson made three appearances during the 2021/22 campaign, having missed the early weeks through injury and a nasty bout of Covid-19. Having not been given a fair chance despite United enduring one of their worst seasons in recent memory, Henderson resigned himself to a future away from Old Trafford.

That future got off to a positive start last season, with Henderson reminding Premier League fans of his promise. A steady presence at the back of an ever-fluctuating Forest side, the 26-year-old earned plenty of plaudits. Then that old bad luck struck again. Henderson was sidelined with injury and the suitably glitzy Keylor Navas was brought in on loan from Paris Saint-Germain. Interestingly, the Costa Rican was another proposed De Gea replacement at one stage, when Ed Woodward’s fax machine made headlines many summers ago.


With Henderson back at Old Trafford, why has there been no talk of repairing relations and belatedly giving him the number one jersey he covets? There are a combination of factors at play here. Firstly, manager Erik ten Hag has his heart set on a more progressive passer in goal. Onana is seen as the perfect fix here, playing as he does with such bravery and invention for a keeper. Henderson is more comfortable with his feet than De Gea but, with all due respect to the esteemed Spain international, that isn’t saying much. Onana is the specialist Ten Hag has been seeking for this role since he arrived.

Secondly there is the issue of Financial Fair Play. It has been a well-known fact that, due to a mountainous spend exceeding £200 million, United would have to tighten their belts this summer. They have dropped £55m-plus on Mount already. That leaves the Red Devils trying to find room within their reported £120m budget for both a new goalkeeper and their desperately-needed centre forward.

Given the standard of signing required for the United first team, this puts the club in a position where they’ll have to sell to buy. The issue here is that the 20-time league champions have rarely been astute sellers. For every surprisingly profitable piece of business, like selling Daniel James to Leeds United for £25m, there are scores of missteps. Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera were allowed to leave for free. Alexis Sanchez went to Inter Milan on a heavily-subsidised loan before leaving for nothing. Jesse Lingard was retained after a superb loan spell at West Ham United put him on several radars and instead was allowed to run his deal down and join Forest for free. United are a club who buy high and sell low.

Henderson has value, though, and now is the time to capitalise on it. Forest in particular are keen on having him back. If the figures between £20m and £25m are to be believed, United really can’t afford to say no in their current financial situation. The money will soften the blow of Onana’s fee and keep some budget in the coffers for their pursuit of Atalanta striker Rasmus Hojlund.

Henderson’s tale is one of poor timing, bad luck, mismanagement and perhaps a somewhat dignified ending. If United get a hefty fee and Henderson gets to go back to a club he enjoyed playing for, everyone will come out of this deal as a winner. This is a rare commodity where United’s outgoing transfers are concerned. With his place in the England reckoning slipping in the face of Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale and Burnley’s new, highly-promising under-21 stopper James Trafford, Henderson needs regular football. United need the money. For once, this is a deal that shouldn’t be complicated and that suits everyone.

23-24 epl outrights*

*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change

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