Dean Henderson’s England ambition made difficult to achieve by Man Utd decision

“He wants to win 50 caps and play for Manchester United,” said Chris Wilder when asked about Dean Henderson in April.

Well he’s on the road to doing the former, but playing for the Red Devils as their No.1 may well remain some way off.

Usually chances come on the international stage due to club form, however Henderson’s path looks set to buck that particular trend.

He made his, some would say, overdue, England debut after coming on at half-time against the Republic of Ireland on Thursday night.

The United goalkeeper has been in and among the Three Lions group for some time having shone at Sheffield United while on loan.

His performances for the Blades last term probably merited an opportunity sooner, but he has plenty of competition for the No.1 jersey.

Dean Henderson made his England debut at Wembley

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Jordan Pickford remains Gareth Southgate’s pick, while Nick Pope starting against the Irish suggests he is entrenched as second in the pecking order.

But even the Burnley goalkeeper seems to know the score despite several stellar seasons at Turf Moor.

“I think it’s fair to say he’s (Pickford) number one at the minute,” Pope said.

“If you look at the last 25, 30 fixtures, he’d have played probably 28 of them. So, a person with that sort of record in the national team, I think, deserves to be called number one and has earned it.”

That would leave Henderson with two men to usurp, even though at times last year plenty of fans would’ve flipped the order and had Pickford as the third choice and Henderson as the starter.

Southgate though has regularly stuck by his mantra that you have to be a regular at club level to force your way into the reckoning.

And there lies Henderson’s problem, but it is one of his own making.

Jordan Pickford and Nick Pope provide competition for the Three Lions goalkeeping jersey

The 23-year-old faced a huge decision in the summer following two years at Bramall Lane and, right now at least, it looks as if he’s made the wrong one.

He kept 13 clean sheets last season, the same amount as David de Gea in the United goal.

And it is the Spaniard whom he knew he would be fighting with as he eyed the No.1 shirt at Old Trafford.

Henderson knew full well the task that lay ahead of him though and wasn’t naive with regards the future.

“I think it’s clear for everyone to know. I want to play for Manchester United and England,” he said earlier this year.

“It feels like I always hit a brick wall. Maybe I’ll get the opportunity [to play for Man Utd], maybe I won’t, then I’ll have to look down a different avenue.”

Well it appears as if he didn’t look down many avenues that weren’t on the red half of Manchester, and while he may reap the long-term financial rewards, currently he is paying the price.

The goalkeeper has spent most of the season on the bench at Old Trafford

De Gea signed a lucrative contract less than 18 months ago that keeps him at Old Trafford until 2023.

United made the Spaniard the world’s highest-paid shot stopper and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made clear he is his No.1.

As a result, Henderson has been restricted to just three appearances this term – none in the Premier League – hardly enough time to stake your case to the onlooking Southgate.

Yes, the young goalkeeper is being extremely well paid to occupy a spot on the bench, but his immediate concern will be playing at next summer’s postponed European Championships.

The irony is that had Euro 2020 gone ahead Henderson may have had a legitimate claim to be a starter for England.

Fast forward 12 months and he will not have that card to play.

He may well earn the 50 caps Wilder claims he wants and if he sticks it out at United, he may eventually take over from De Gea.

Both of those ambitions are in their infancy however and being unable to challenge Pickford and Pope is a situation of his own making.

It is a battle he has the talent to win – but to do so, he must take ownership of his club situation sooner rather than later.

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