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The defiant message Dean Henderson sent to David De Gea during Manchester United’s cup loss – Manchester Evening News

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Manchester United were dumped out of the Carabao Cup last night after a 1-0 home defeat to West Ham United.

It was the earliest the Reds have exited a cup competition under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who used the fixture as an opportunity to get more minutes in the legs of a number of squad players currently on the periphery of his plans.

Very few rewarded the United boss as a collective underwhelming team display forced Solskjaer to turn to Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood late on, hoping two of his ever-dependable stars could once again deliver. But not this time.

In a night of very few positives, one that did surface was the performance of Dean Henderson.

It was the first time the 24-year-old had appeared for the Reds since their 2-1 victory over Wolves on the final day of last season after injury and then COVID forced him to withdraw from England’s Euro 2020 squad and miss the start of the new season with United.

It was a huge setback for Henderson who’d managed to establish himself as the club’s first-choice, playing in every league fixture from Crystal Palace away in early March up right until the end of the campaign.

He was told by Solskjaer that he’d be United’s number one for the season ahead, yet his forced spell on the sidelines opened the door for David De Gea to again stake his claim.

The Spanish ‘keeper has spent a decade at Manchester United and proven to be one of the Premier League’s finest shot-stoppers throughout that time, winning no less than four United player of the year awards.

However, De Gea’s role changed last season and he found himself playing second fiddle to Henderson, fortuitously still playing matches, but only as a result of United’s run into the latter stages of the Europa League.

His decisive penalty miss in the final of that competition seemed like it’d be an unfitting end to a standout United career, however, he’s worked his way back into the number one spot at the club this season.

Within these opening five league matches, he’s performed impressively too. Based on Post-Shot Expected Goals (PSxG), United should have conceded two more goals than they have based on the chances they’ve faced.

Yet on Wednesday, even despite the defeat, Henderson was able to briefly remind Solskjaer why he was ready to promote the 24-year-old to his chief shot-stopper for this season.

The visitors created very few chances on goal, a total of three in fact, including the winner. There was little Henderson could have done about that, yet late on with United chasing the game, West Ham were handed two golden opportunities to seal the win.

The first was straight out of a Hollywood script, with Mark Noble free and unmarked in the penalty area, primed to atone for his last-minute penalty miss in Sunday’s defeat at the hands of United. However Henderson made himself big and pulled off a good save, keeping the Reds alive.

He was then called into action again just 30 seconds after, as Jarrod Bowen made light work of skipping past Victor Lindelof before driving a hard-hit shot towards the bottom corner of Henderson’s net.

The United man was equal to the shot, not only saving but also retaining the ball in his hands before quickly distributing the same forward and allowing United to counter.

Although the equalising goal proved elusive, Henderson did a great job of keeping United in the game right up until the very end.

Having already shown Solskjaer enough last season for the Norwegian to determine he was worthy of being United’s number one for the foreseeable future, Wednesday night’s display saw Henderson send a message and reminder to his manager and teammates, specifically De Gea, that he’s now back and ready to take back the role that was previously promised to be his.

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