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Manchester United could spring a Pep Guardiola surprise before the season finishes – Manchester Evening News

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https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/sport/football/manchester-united-lee-grant-news-20640030

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The final match of a Premier League season often sees Manchester United provide a platform for the next generation of hopeful youngsters to showcase their talents at senior level.

A crunch encounter away at Leicester last term robbed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer of such an opportunity, having handed Mason Greenwood his full debut in defeat to Cardiff City a year earlier.

Even Jose Mourinho got in on the act, once at least, granting starts to Joel Pereira, Demetri Mitchell, Axel Tuanzebe and Joshua Harrop for the final match of the season four years ago, days before the Europa League final.

This time around it could be the likes of Anthony Elanga, Hannibal Mejbri, Shola Shoretire and Will Fish who get a run out against Wolves on Sunday, but there is reason to suggest the oldest member of Solskjaer’s squad should be involved too.

With no new contract agreed this weekend could be the final time we see veteran goalkeeper Lee Grant in a United match day squad, with David de Gea set to start the Europa League final and Dean Henderson his deputy in Gdansk – though Grant could make the bench as third-choice keeper due to the larger squad sizes permitted in European competition.

Grant, 38, arrived at United three years ago following the signings of Diogo Dalot and Fred. Many hoped he’d be a bonus buy in the summer transfer window – he ended up being Jose Mourinho’s final signing.

In three years at the club the former Stoke shot-stopper has made it onto the pitch just twice, once as a substitute in League Cup defeat to Derby after Sergio Romero was sent off, the other in defeat to Astana for a dead-rubber Europa League tie in November 2019.

That night in Kazakhstan saw six youngsters make their senior debuts while it remain’s Grant’s solitary start for the club – he at least deserves one more thank you before he potentially leaves in a few weeks’ time.

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While cynics might claim Grant has one of the easiest jobs in football, it is certainly a favourable one, he has established himself as a respectable figure during his time at Old Trafford and is hugely popular among the first-team squad.

Do you think Lee Grant deserves one final appearance for United? Let us know in the comments below.

The veteran still remains a key component of training sessions, acting not only as a de facto goalkeeper coach, but a reliable participant in shooting drills who maintains high standards of professionalism despite knowing he might never make another appearance for the club.

“If Manchester United would love to have me around for another year, that would be a wonderful outcome for me,” he admitted back in March. “I’m certainly enjoying my time at the club, they’ve been tremendous with me.

“If not, I’m up for whatever else is available. We had a bit of a Covid crisis in terms of our staffing (against Newcastle), so I had to muck in with the staff.

Lee Grant with his Christmas hat on.
(Image: Eamonn and James Clarke)

“I was our goalkeeper coach for the night – I took on full goalkeeping coaching duties, which I loved. I enjoy doing that and I know the staff and players enjoy having me around.”

With Sergio Romero set to leave at the end of the season and the real possibility of either De Gea or Henderson following him, it could well be a new-look goalkeeping department when the squad assembles for the start of pre-season in a couple of month’s time.

Solskjaer is doing the right thing in letting Grant go given that he has adequate back-up in both Nathan Bishop and Matej Kovar for a possible third-choice role, but before he bows out – in a playing capacity at least – it would be nice to see him given one last chance to wear the shirt with pride.

Just as Pep Guardiola rewarded Scott Carson with a once in a blue moon appearance last week, it might be time for United to Grant their own unsung hero one final wish.

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