The Red Devils have seemingly opted against sabotaging the Blades’ surprise push for UEFA Champions League football.
Henderson will benefit from the European Championships being postponed until next summer. With an extra year to impress, his chances of displacing Jordan Pickford as England’s No.1 should increase.
The 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup winner has been an ever-present for the Blades since his arrival in 2018. He was an integral part of the side that secured promotion to the Premier League last year.
Henderson’s transition to Premier League football has been virtually seamless, staking his claim as one of the league’s best goalkeepers. He has the joint-most clean sheets (11) and is the fourth-highest performing goalkeeper in Europe’s top five leagues for goals prevented. With an average of 0.81 goals conceded per 90, Henderson has the second-best ratio in the league.
Still aged just 23, it’s little wonder Ole Gunnar Solskjær says Henderson “will be England’s number one and Manchester United’s No.1 at some point”. So, how soon will it be before Henderson is between the sticks for the Red Devils?
It is no secret David de Gea has been on a downward spiral over the last few seasons. Once considered the best goalkeeper in the Premier League, De Gea was picked in the PFA Team of the Year for each of the four seasons prior to 2018/19.
However, the Spanish keeper’s form has come under scrutiny after a flurry of high-profile errors. The most recent coming in the 1-1 draw at Tottenham Hotspur for Steven Bergwijn’s goal. Then there was De Gea’s attempted clearance which was blocked by Dominic Calvert-Lewin at Everton.
De Gea has made four errors this season leading to goals. In comparison, Henderson has made just the one. The keeper dropped Georginio Wijnaldum’s tame effort into the net against Liverpool, costing his side a precious point.
Blades boss Wilder pulled no punches afterwards. “If he wants to be a professional footballer, these things are going to happen,” he said after the defeat.
“But if he wants to play for the top teams, he wants to play for England then he needs to do better, he needs to concentrate more.
“It’s a disappointing day for him. I am not going to put my arms around him, simply he needs to do better.”
After being publicly criticised for the error, Henderson has been almost faultless since showing why he’s become a fan favourite at Bramall Lane with his commanding performances.
Sitting just four points behind Chelsea in fourth, Sheffield United are still in contention for Champions League football next season. Yet with the decision over Manchester City’s Champions League ban looming, fifth may well be enough. Henderson’s parent club Manchester United currently occupy fifth but the Blades are just a point and a place behind.
De Gea is the highest-paid player at United and still has three years left on his contract. Henderson may have to bide his term before he usurps the Spanish keeper.
However, according to widespread reports, Henderson only plans to return to Old Trafford if he’s to become No.1. In the meantime, the 23-year-old will benefit from another year under Wilder – potentially playing Champions League football.