Bullish Dean Henderson has warned David de Gea he is gunning for his Manchester United spot. The 23-year-old goalkeeper, who is England’s squad to face Iceland in the Nations League this weekend, will return to Old Trafford after an outstanding loan period at Sheffield United, determined to take the jersey off the Spaniard.
Academy graduate Henderson signed a new six-year contract just last month amid links to Chelsea, making it clear he sees himself at Old Trafford for the long haul.
“I’ll be going back in first day of pre-season and working my b******s off to get in that starting line-up because it’s something I’ve always wanted and I’m so close now,” said Henderson.
“I respect David. David has been a great goalkeeper for many years. He’s been phenomenal and that’s something I aspire to be, to have a career like his at the club.
“It’s down to me but I’m under no illusions that I’m going to improve just sat on the bench. I need that game-time.
“I know what challenges are ahead and I’m well up for it. I feel like a new signing at Manchester United.
“I want to play for England and I want to play for Manchester United and so I’m just going to keep working hard every single day, overcoming my little challenges, my little goals and I’m sure one day I’ll get to where I want to be.”
Henderson played 86 games in two seasons for the Blades as first choice and is not going back to United just to be a back-up act to De Gea, a four-time Player of the Year winner.
“I’m under no illusions that I’m going to improve just sat on the bench. I need that game-time,” he said.
Asked if he was unable to unseat De Gea, he would need to go back out on loan to remain in the England picture, Henderson replied: “Yes. But that won’t be the situation.”
Henderson has honed his craft under Chris Wilder at Sheffield United and hailed the 2018-19 LMA Manager of the Year’s impact on his development.
“Chris was a great manager, rough and ready just what I needed,” he said.
“He put me in line when I needed to be put in line but really strongly believed in me, which is something I loved about him. He made me feel 10ft tall.
“A lot of the boys said that real men turn up to big events and that was the saying when we went out just before the games.
“That’s something I model myself on. Don’t go hiding. Always there. Never shy away from criticism, just try my best as much as I can.
“I’m ready for any challenge thrown my way.”
Henderson added: “For any young goalkeeper it’s 80 per cent mental.
“I know it sounds weird but going out and having to prove yourself the long way around, through the leagues, then you’ve got to have a bit of an edge. I believe I’ve got that edge.
“It sets me in good stead and it works for me. It doesn’t work for everyone but I’m happy with who I am.”
Solskjaer meanwhile said of Henderson last month: “We are delighted that Dean has signed his new contract.
“He had another great season at Sheffield United, where he gained a lot of experience and grew both as a player and a person.
“Dean is a fantastic young keeper with the attitude and work-rate to keep improving every day.
“We are in a strong position within the goalkeeping department and that gives us the competition for places that we are looking for in the squad.
“Dean is another great example of the type of player who has come through the Academy and truly understands what it means to be at Manchester United.
“We are all looking forward to working with Dean and continuing to develop his talent.”