Henderson’s statement of intent plunges Solskjaer into awkward Man Utd dilemma

Now that is what you call getting out in front of an issue.

Just four days after their season had ended, and with the wounds inflicted by Sevilla in Cologne still quite raw, Manchester United have already been plunged headfirst into 2020/21.

Because there's no doubt about it, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first issue of the forthcoming season arose from the words typed into Dean Henderson's phone on Wednesday evening.

The goalkeeper has made it clear that he will not be returning to Sheffield United for a third season-long loan spell, announcing the news on social media and thanking the Blades as he did so.

"I will look back at the last two years as an important chapter in my career and more than anything, I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to learn and develop with such a class group of lads," wrote Henderson.

He then pointedly added: "I can't wait for the next chapter!"

Ah yes, the next chapter. What does that story hold?

For a 23-year-old goalkeeper who has just had a season that is close to being on par with the very best stoppers in the Premier League, the page now has to turn towards something bigger and better.

Henderson has to be playing football at a high level in the new campaign to realise his potential, which includes grabbing the No.1 shirt for England at the Euros.

But what are his chances of doing the same at Manchester United?

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Solskjaer has repeatedly gone on record to offer his backing to his under-fire No.1 David de Gea, the Spaniard whose performances have notably dipped ever since he was denied a move to Real Madrid and signed a new deal at Old Trafford to make him the highest-earning goalkeeper in football history.

There is still no doubt about De Gea's quality, but it is more about the ways he applies himself these days.

He is a remarkable goalkeeper and one of the best Old Trafford has ever seen, but he seems to be losing that battle with concentration that all custodians of the bigger clubs need to keep on top of.

He can not be in the game, suddenly have to make a save and then fail at his task.

That is the battle that Henderson will have to win if he is to realise his dream at United, but by going public with his desire to do that he has placed Solskjaer in a difficult position.

Privately the Norwegian might want rid of De Gea, and he could see a freshening up in goal as a welcome move as United look to build on a third-place finish in the Premier League as well as three cup semi-finals.

The Spaniard's influence behind the scenes could also be something he'd like to address.

But even if he did want to move the goalkeeper on, then where would he go?

Any move would likely see United have to chip in some of his exorbitant wages over the next three years of his contract, and De Gea just becomes another financial drain on the club a la Alexis Sanchez.

Can United afford that in the current financial climate? And are they willing to risk it?

De Gea or Henderson? Have your say in the comments below

De Gea is just two years younger than Sanchez at 29, but in goalkeeping terms that is quite a chasm. There is the chance that he could rediscover his form and go on to regain his status as a top performer.

The challenge from Henderson could even inspire him towards that, but the younger man does not want to be sitting on the bench going into the new campaign, something that could suddenly make life difficult for Solskjaer should De Gea make an error in the season's early weeks.

The United boss will doubtless say that he wants to keep hold of the young Englishman, but by returning to the club and insisting he's not going on a temporary switch this time, Henderson really has put the ball in his manager's court.

Should he trust his tried, tested and a little bit tired No.1 option, something that will mean he almost certainly has to sell Henderson?

Or does he go with the emerging force and anger a highly-paid, formerly highly-prized asset who could make life quite difficult for United to move him on?

Henderson has put his cards on the table, now it is time for Solskjaer to do the same.

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