Dean Henderson stumbled in his audition to replace David de Gea in Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with AC Milan, as boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted the young keeper ought to have kept out Simon Kjaer’s last-minute leveller.
Henderson, 23, has been forced to wait patiently for his moment since returning to Old Trafford following a hugely successful two-year loan spell at Sheffield United, with De Gea preferred by Solskjaer.
The Spaniard’s return to his homeland following the birth of his newborn daughter, Yanay, has opened the door for Henderson, with Solskjaer handing the shot-stopper a run of six games to deputise for De Gea between the sticks.
Dean Henderson stumbled on his audition to replace David de Gea as Man United’s No 1
Henderson failed to keep out a saveable effort from Simon Kjaer as United were held by Milan
The 23-year-old has been vocal in expressing his ambitions to become United’s No 1, and clean sheets against Crystal Palace and Manchester City had showed promising early signs for the Englishman.
However, Henderson was culpable for AC Milan’s last-gasp equaliser at Old Trafford on Thursday. Having been moments away from cementing a third-successive clean sheet, Kjaer’s header beat the United stopper in what appeared a saveable effort.
With the margin for error minute for goalkeepers, the spotlight is on Henderson as he bids to respond from the mistake heading into this weekend’s visit of West Ham.
The 23-year-old has been handed a run of games in the side in the absence of David de Gea
The Spaniard has returned to his homeland following the birth of his newborn daughter
And United boss Solskjaer said Henderson ought to have kept the shot out, before insisting that his side’s poor defending of the set piece was the reason for the late equaliser.
‘Its a header from six yards. He can save it of course, I’ve seen him save them,’ the Norwegian told BT Sport.
‘But it is the structure that we lose. We drop deep and we get blocked off and Kjaer makes a good run. We should’ve attacked the ball with the men we had.’
Former United midfielders Hargreaves and Scholes, though, believe that the young goalkeeper has the mental fortitude to respond from the disappointing error.
However, Henderson was culpable after being beaten by a straightforward header from Kjaer
‘Every goalkeeper has made mistakes,’ Hargreaves told BT Sport. ‘For Dean, you only really know players until they make mistakes.
‘He will realise – he is confident, he is smart – that is a save he needs to make at Manchester United.
‘Up to this point he has been perfect. That is the first mistake he has made. That happens. That position is very unforgiving. I don’t think it is something that will hurt him. I think he will bounce back.
‘David de Gea has done it for a very long period, for Dean he doesn’t have that credit in the bank and that only comes with experience. It’s a learning curve.’
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said that Henderson ‘can save it of course’ after the game
Solskjaer insisted, though, that it was his side’s defensive structure that resulted in the goal
Meanwhile, Scholes added that Henderson’s mistake ‘leaves an opening’ for De Gea, and that United’s senior players will rally around the Englishman.
‘It has come in his second, third game [since De Gea has returned to Spain],’ Scholes said. ‘It is early. He has to respond to that.
‘He has a great chance of playing four or five weeks and making the manager leave De Gea out, but now it leaves an opening again for David.’
On how Henderson’s team-mates will react to the young keeper’s mistake, Scholes added: ‘It depends on the experience of the goalkeeper. If it is David you leave him alone, let him get on with it.
‘With Henderson it might be a bit different, tell him don’t worry about it, give him encouragement. I think he will be gutted about it. It’s not a glaring mistake but it is an obvious one.
Pundits Paul Scholes (L) and Owen Hargreaves (R) have backed Henderson to bounce back
‘For goalkeepers, concentration is a big thing for that full 93 minutes, it’s a mistake and you can’t just blame that for United tonight.
‘United were second best all night. AC Milan were fully deserving of a victory. He made a mistake, United could be in trouble for the second leg but they got away with one tonight.’
Scholes had spoken of Henderson’s ‘big opportunity’ to dislodge De Gea as United’s No 1 goalkeeper before the Europa League clash with the Italian giants, praising the 23-year-old for his ‘comfortable’ presence in goal.
‘That depends on what Dean Henderson does now,’ the BT Sport pundit said when asked whether the 23-year-old can become United’s No 1. ‘This is his big opportunity to cement his place in the team.
United’s chances of progression to the next round hangs in the balance with the tie wide open
‘I love David [De Gea], he has been a sensational goalkeeper for this club for many years but that Everton game he conceded a couple of goals he shouldn’t have and I though maybe it was time for a change but Ole stuck with him.’
The former England midfielder added that a positive run of displays in the coming weeks could not only prove pivotal for Henderson’s future at United, but also see him become England’s first choice keeper heading into the Euros.
‘That game on Sunday I felt safe with him. He just felt comfortable,. Nice and relaxed, nice and composed and this is a big chance for him. Not just for Man United, if he does well in these next few games he is No 1 for England for me,’ he added.
‘The next few weeks are pivotal, that will decide David’s future. I don’t think David will sit around and be a number two, neither of them can do. That’s why he has got to take his chance and do what he can to stay in this team.’