Manchester United were knocked out of the Carabao Cup last night after a 1-0 home loss to West Ham United.
It was the first time the Reds have left a cup competition under the leadership of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who used the game as an opportunity to get more minutes in the legs of a number of players from the team currently on the outskirts of its plans.
Very few have rewarded the United boss as a disappointing collective display from the team forced Solskjaer to turn to Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood, hoping two of his ever-reliable stars could deliver again. But not this time.
On a night of very few positives, the one that surfaced was Dean Henderson’s performance.
It was the first time the 24-year-old has appeared for the Reds since their 2-1 win over Wolves on the last day of last season after injury, then COVID forced him to withdraw from the England squad Euro 2020 and miss the start of the new season with United.
It was a huge setback for Henderson who had managed to establish himself as the club’s first choice, playing in every league game from Crystal Palace in early March until the end of the campaign.
Solskjaer told him he would be United’s number one for the coming season, but his forced sideline spell opened the door for David De Gea to claim his rights again.
The Spanish keeper spent a decade at Manchester United and has proven to be one of the Premier League’s top shooters throughout that time, winning no less than four United Player of the Year awards.
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However, De Gea’s role changed last season and he found himself playing Henderson’s second fiddle, still playing matches casually, but only as a result of United running into the latter stages of the League. Europa.
His missed decisive penalty in that competition’s final seemed like an inappropriate end to an outstanding United career, however, he regained the club’s top spot this season.
In those first five league games he also put in impressive performances. Based on the expected goals after the shot (PSxG), United should have conceded two more goals than they have based on the chances they encountered.
Yet on Wednesday, even despite the loss, Henderson was able to briefly remind Solskjaer why he was ready to promote the 24-year-old to the main shooter for this season.
The visitors created very few chances on goal, a total of three in fact, including the winner. There wasn’t much Henderson could have done about it, but late with United continuing the game, West Ham were given two golden chances to seal the victory.
The first was straight out of a Hollywood scenario, with Mark Noble free and unscored in the penalty area, ready to atone for his missed last-minute penalty in Sunday’s loss to United. However, Henderson made himself tall and made a good save, keeping the Reds alive.
He was then called back to action just 30 seconds later, as Jarrod Bowen struggled to get past Victor Lindelof before throwing a hard-hit shot to the bottom corner of Henderson’s net.
The United man was up to the shot, not only saving but also keeping the ball in his hands before quickly distributing the same striker and allowing United to block.
Although the tying goal proved elusive, Henderson did a great job of keeping United in the game until the very end.
Having already shown Solskjaer enough last season for the Norwegian to determine he was worthy of being United’s number one for the foreseeable future, Wednesday night’s display saw Henderson send a message and a reminder to his manager and to his teammates, in particular De Gea, whom he is now back and ready to take on the role that was previously promised to him.
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