Peter Schmeichel says Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made a “really, really big mistake” in pitching David De Gea and Dean Henderson against each other – but the United boss now seems to be reaping the rewards
Although the Red Devils have kept just one clean sheet this season, goalkeeper David De Gea is back in fine form and has reassured supporters of his quality.
The Spaniard’s place as Solskjaer’s first-choice was in jeopardy towards the end of last season, with Dean Henderson sharing the minutes once De Gea returned from paternal leave.
Legendary former Red Devils stopper Schmeichel says it was a “mistake” to make it a competition between the two goalkeepers but the battle has so far ultimately proved to be beneficial for Solskjaer.
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“For me, you cannot have a competition situation on your goalkeeping position.”
But De Gea was rarely troubled by Sergio Romero while he was back-up at Old Trafford, with fans theorising that the lack of true competition, such as Henderson, led to the former Athletic Bilbao man taking his eye off the ball.
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De Gea, in his 11th campaign at Old Trafford, has been one of the Red Devils’ standout players in a tumultuous term, notably saving his first penalty since April 2016 in the win at West Ham.
The 30-year-old also made vital interventions in victories over Wolverhampton Wanderers and Villarreal, before making a superb double save in the 3-2 triumph against Atalanta in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Solskjaer also labelled De Gea his side’s best player in a 4-2 defeat to Leicester which ‘said everything’ about the game.
Meanwhile, Henderson watched on from the bench, with the 24-year-old going out on loan five times already since turning senior.
Schmeichel suggested Henderson being English had not helped Solskjaer create a “situation which will not go away”, while claiming the United boss “cannot make a choice”.
But the ex-United stopper has also conceded that De Gea is back to his best – which surely was Solskjaer’s prerogative all along?
After all, the Spaniard even returned early for pre-season at his manager’s request, seemingly aware his position was under threat.
Schmeichel appeared to praise United’s defence for contributing to De Gea’s improved form, though they were nowhere to be seen when he twice denied Atalanta superbly with the score at 2-1.
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De Gea may still have an error in his repertoire, but the more he can stay consistent, the less of an issue that may be when it occurs.
Take Alisson at Liverpool, whose own mistakes have often been overlooked due to the high levels he operates at week-in, week-out.
De Gea’s former team-mate, Rio Ferdinand, has also suggested he believes Solskjaer’s decision was the right one.
“His character is the overriding factor,” Ferdinand affirmed to BT Sport earlier this month.
“He had people doubting him when he first came in and he shut those people up, won countless player of the years here. He’ll be the first to admit, when you look in his eyes, he doesn’t doubt himself.
“I was concerned because there was a big push from everyone in the game, the media, saying bring in Henderson, but this guy would never stop backing himself.
“He’s come through tough moments and putting in those performances he has been. Without him vs Villarreal and in other games, United don’t get any type of results.”
Schmeichel may feel Solskjaer has still made a mistake in making De Gea and Henderson go toe-to-toe.
But little over a month on from the United boss admitting there was still a decision to be made over his No.1, he may have found his answer.
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