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De Gea's position as first-choice goalkeeper at Man United under serious threat

Published on: 05 March 2021

David de Gea's status as Manchester United's undisputed No 1 is under serious threat after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told him to take a break in Spain.

In what could be Solskjaer's first move to replace De Gea, Dean Henderson has been given six games to stake his claim and will be in goal for Sunday's Manchester derby at the Etihad.

De Gea has returned to Spain on personal leave to be with his pop star partner Edurne Garcia, who is expecting their first child.

Sportsmail understands Solskjaer has decided it would be better if the 30-year-old stays with his family until after the international break later this month, even though De Gea would prefer to carry on playing. The move gives Henderson a clear run at the No 1 jersey and signals a dramatic twist in his bid to unseat De Gea.

The 23-year-old has made no secret of his desire to be first-choice goalkeeper for United and England since returning to Old Trafford after two seasons on loan at Sheffield United.

He has grown concerned over his lack of first-team opportunities this season and the effect it might have on his international prospects.

Having replaced De Gea for Wednesday night's 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace, Henderson will stay in goal for the Premier League games against Manchester City and West Ham, the Europa League double-header with AC Milan and the FA Cup quarter-final at Leicester.

If he performs well, it would be very difficult for Solskjaer to bring De Gea straight back into the team after keeping faith with the Spaniard, despite a series of costly blunders, since he took over as United manager in December 2018.

It has created an increasingly awkward situation for Solskjaer given Henderson's impressive displays. The clean sheet against Palace was his eighth in 13 appearances.

Solskjaer is due to face the media at noon on Friday and could argue that Henderson would have played three of the next five games anyway, in Europe and the FA Cup.

And it is not uncommon for players to be given time off for the birth of their children.

But the significance of Solskjaer's decision to sign off De Gea for a month and install Henderson has not been lost on the squad. It sends out a clear message that the No 1 spot is up for grabs.

If this does prove to be the beginning of the end for De Gea, the biggest challenge for United would be finding a buyer. He has more than two years left on a £375,000-a-week contract.


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