Sheffield United’s hopes of holding on to star goalkeeper Dean Henderson after his season-long loan deal expires could hinge on the contract situation of David De Gea at Henderson’s parent club, Manchester United.
Henderson has made a real impression during the early stages of his loan deal at Bramall Lane, establishing himself as a crowd favourite while helping Chris Wilder’s men reach the top of the Championship table.
Fans are understandably keen for United to retain Henderson’s services beyond the end of the current season – more likely another loan spell, unless they are promoted to the Premier League – but with the goalkeeper setting his sights on being No.1 for both club and country, the likelihood of that will rest on whether Spanish ‘keeper De Gea stays at Old Trafford.
Contract talks between the goalkeeper, named United’s player of the year in four of the last five season, and the Old Trafford hierarchy have stalled, according to The Telegraph, and De Gea is reportedly yet to be convinced that the Red Devils can challenge consistently for domestic and European honours.
To further complicate the situation De Gea is entering the final stages of his Old Trafford contract. United have an option to extend it by 12 months, but still face losing their star man for nothing in 2020 – unless they cash in on him beforehand.
One likely path for De Gea, to Real Madrid, has been blocked by their capture of Thibaut Courtois from Chelsea but there will be no shortage of suitors for the world’s best goalkeeper – which could complicate any possible Blades pursuit of young England goalkeeper Henderson.
Despite his lofty ambitions, though, Henderson also wants to play football and pleaded with Old Trafford officials to let him out on loan last season, before he eventually moved to Shrewsbury Town on a temporary basis.
"I wouldn't have signed my Manchester United contract if they hadn't agreed to a two year loan as I wasn't having anyone stopping my development," he told The Star recently.
"Ideally I want to go back there and be number one but if that's not the case, I want to be out on loan if not permanent somewhere else. All the under-23's football is a myth. Most people just fancy pants around thinking they're this or that.
“They get good money and then don't know what's hit them when they come out on loan so they never bloody play.
"I've been on the [first team] bench at Manchester United a few times and travelled with the first team which was great.
“But after a while, you think 'What am I doing?' I was basically just standing around, collecting balls and watching them play. I wanted to be involved, not a ball boy."
Admitting it "frustrates the life" out of him when other young players at his parent club reject moves to the English Football League, Henderson added: "I talk to some of the youngsters at United and say 'What are you doing wasting your life? Get yourself out on loan. Prove yourself.'
“They think 'Oh no, I'm going to play for Manchester United.' My response is well go and prove yourself then mate because at the moment you're not.
“Start at the bottom and build yourself up. There's a lot of ability in changing rooms but a lot of people happy to sit in their comfort zones. Every young lad at Manchester United has ability. So it's about mentality."