There was plenty wrong with Manchester United’s 3-2 defeat away to RB Leipzig which ended their Champions League involvement on Tuesday, from a sluggish start to wasted chances and defensive lapses. But could David de Gea’s poor attempt to keep out the third goal cost him his starting spot?
The Spanish goalkeeper didn’t cover himself in glory with his attempt to block Justin Kluivert’s decisive close-range finish and with Dean Henderson putting pressure on United’s long-term No 1, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could be set to make a big call ahead of United’s clash with Manchester City on Saturday.
Henderson replaced De Gea against Southampton when he picked up a knock and played all 90 minutes in last weekend’s 3-1 win over West Ham. Sky Sports News James Cooper – appearing on the Pitch to Post Preview Podcast – now believes there is a real chance 23-year-old Henderson could be handed a first-team place for the derby.
«We don’t know who is going to be in goal for Manchester United after what David de Gea did,» said Cooper. «It’s amazing, we all talked about the defeat, we talked about Paul Pogba. He got away scot-free for conceding a goal no goalkeeper playing for Manchester United should concede.
«I think that’s the key decision Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has to make. Whether he decides, ‘I’ve given De Gea enough’. De Gea has played well this season, he really has. But what happened on Tuesday in Leipzig was unforgiveable from his point of view.
De Gea has played well this season, he really has. But what happened on Tuesday in Leipzig was unforgiveable from his point of view.
«I know Harry Maguire let the ball across him and he shouldn’t have done that either, but you’re talking about a goalkeeper who turned his back on a striker and suddenly you’re three down, not two, and you’re staring down the barrel.
«I think he’s got to decide what gives his defence the most confidence. Certainly, Dean Henderson looks assured. He’s got no doubt about his own ability – I’m told he’s a very confident individual – and he has proper goals of being Man Utd’s No1 and England’s No1 and everyone around him says he’s going to achieve those goals.»
Dropping De Gea a huge call
However, swapping De Gea out for Henderson for such a huge game would be a significant moment in Solskjaer’s reign – and a call he wouldn’t easily be able to reverse in subsequent games. Is now the time to switch from the De Gea era to the Henderson one?
Solskjaer must weigh up that bigger picture before he names his XI, says Cooper.
«This weekend it’s a really big shout to say De Gea isn’t our No1, bearing in mind he has been and the sort of money they pay him. It’s a really, really key decision,» said Cooper.
This weekend it’s a really big shout to say De Gea isn’t our No1. Solskjaer wouldn’t be able to hide from that. It wouldn’t be like resting or rotating. It would be: ‘that wasn’t good enough’.
«When we come to talk to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that will be one of the key questions, do you stick or twist, because I think in the fallout from Leipzig the one who got away with it was De Gea.
«Solskjaer wouldn’t be able to hide from that. It wouldn’t be like resting or rotating. It would be: ‘that wasn’t good enough’.
«The history of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – and we come up to the two year anniversary next week – is he hasn’t wanted to do that, he has backed his players in a way Sir Alex Ferguson did. He’s talked about it before: ‘I won’t criticise them, I’ll back them, I’ll do all those things publicly’.
«This would be a very public thing to say, ‘Henderson, you’re No1 in a big game against Man City’ when, again, the alarm bells are ringing and Man Utd can’t afford to lose.»
Pitch to Post Preview: Man Utd v Man City preview; Plus Tottenham analysis, Arsenal’s attack, and Liverpool’s strength in depth
This week on the Pitch to Post Preview Podcast, Peter Smith is joined by Sky Sports News reporters James Cooper and Ben Ransom to discuss the Manchester derby, including whether David de Gea will be dropped, why John Stones is back in the City side, and how it could all play out.
Their colleague Michael Bridge is on the line to discuss Crystal Palace vs table-toppers Tottenham, plus Sky Sports Data Editor Adam Smith has the numbers behind Arsenal’s attack and Liverpool’s strength in depth – as well as his Pitch for what will happen in the Premier League this weekend!