David de Gea is scraping through games, getting by through the skin of his teeth. Dean Henderson is leaving his imprint on games, making an active difference. That is the difference for Manchester United right now.
Their goalkeeping dilemma lurched in another direction during the 1-0 victory over AC Milan on Thursday night and it was not good news for De Gea’s army of staunch supporters.
It is only natural that a goalkeeper with a decade-long reputation as a United great will accrue such a set of fans, and only natural that criticism of the Spaniard is met with suspicion. But the eyes don’t deceive anymore when it comes to De Gea versus Henderson. The debate is swinging in one, probably irreversable, direction.
It has been one of the most intriguing one-on-one battles for a United place in the post Sir Alex Ferguson era, in truth. But a winner seems to be emerging, with only one of the two goalkeepers on an upward trajectory.
Personality is a trait often discouraged by goalkeeping coaches for fear of it leading to over-exuberance. United fans will remember how chaotic Fabien Barthez — touted as Peter Schmeichel’s long-term heir — could be. The great Dane tended to get just the right balance between character and care in goal.
Henderson can often be heard barking orders at his teammates and always looks to be brimming with confidence, though the 24-year-old’s closest confidants say his brashness is a front masking a more sensitive and personable interior.