Henderson: My Reds dream is getting closer
Dean Henderson has expressed his delight in signing a new Manchester United contract and is excited about his future at the club, but in the meantime he can’t wait to return to Sheffield United on loan to pick up where he left off last season.
The promising England Under-21 international has put pen to paper on a new long-term deal with the Reds.
In order to aid his development in the short term, the goalkeeper is heading back to Bramall Lane to gain valuable Premier League experience, having kept the most clean sheets in the Championship last term to help the Blades gain promotion back to the top flight following a 12-year exile.
We caught up with Dean for an exclusive in-depth interview, in which he discusses his love for our club, what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said about his future, why he’s going back to Sheffield United, the secrets to having a successful loan spell, his targets for the season ahead and much more…
Congratulations on your new deal here at United. I’m sure it’ll be a relief for you to have both your short-term and long-term future sorted?
“Yeah, I know, obviously for myself and my family, I’m delighted and over the moon. To come in as a 14-year-old boy, to get to this stage now I’m absolutely buzzing. To commit my future to the club I love, it’s the best thing in the world.”
Like you said, having come in as a 14-year-old, you know all about this football club and what it’s about…
“Of course, yeah. Throughout it’s been put into my blood. From the day I joined to me sitting here now, I’ve learned a lot since I came here. I’ve grown into a man and I’m really thankful for everything that the club has done for me.”
You’ve spoken to the gaffer, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. What has he said about your future here at United?
“He’s just told me to keep progressing and doing what you’re doing, and there’s no reason why you can’t make a breakthrough one day. I can only focus on myself and not look at any external things that are going on around me. At the end of the day, I can only affect what happens in my career. I’m just going to keep working hard - day in, day out - to be the best version of myself and be the best goalkeeper I can be.”
It’s not just a long-term deal here at United that you’ve signed, you’re going back to Sheffield United on loan. Was that an easy decision for you to go back there?
“100 per cent – that’s what I wanted. I came and spoke to the manager [Chris Wilder] at the end of last season when we got promoted there last year and he was really keen to get it done. Obviously, he knows what I’m about but it’s always good for them to see me in the Premier League and see how I get on there because, until you’ve proved yourself in the Premier League, it’s hard to make a claim here [at Manchester United]. Realistically, that’s probably the best thing for me and it suits all parties all round. I’m really delighted with the faith that Sheffield United has shown in me so I can’t wait to get back and then hopefully prove a point.”
As first campaigns go, it was pretty good from your point of view – gaining promotion to the Premier League…
“Yeah, of course. Sheffield United is a massive club and to help them get back into the Premier League... I think they had 12 years outside the top flight... to get them back to where they deserve to be with the passionate fans they’ve got there, it was outstanding last season and hopefully we can build on that this year.”
As you said there, it’s not just about Sheffield United being back in the Premier League – it means you’re playing Premier League minutes as well, which is very important for your progression isn’t it?
“Of course, yeah, that’s the next step on the ladder. I’ve done every league now, I think, all the way up through the English leagues, so I’ve had it tough. I’ve worked hard, I’ve been out there, I’ve had the courage to go out and back my ability, which isn’t easy. Now I’ve got the opportunity to go and enjoy myself at the top level and hopefully showcase what I can do.”
As you mentioned, you’ve been out on loan several times and have always endeared yourself to the fans, the players and the clubs. What is the secret to being successful out on loan?
“You’ve just got to back yourself and go out there and play like it’s your parent club in a way. You’ve really got to buy into the fundamentals of the football club and I’ve done that everywhere I’ve been. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I’ll always be like that, no matter what – whether it’s Man United, Carlisle United, Grimsby Town, Shrewsbury Town or Stockport County. I’ll always be the same player because I’m a passionate lad and I always want to do well. Hopefully one day I can do it at Old Trafford, where I’ve always dreamed of doing it.”
You’ve played at all levels of the English game – how important do you think that has been for your development to where you are now?
“Yeah, I stand by it. I think the lower down you go, the harder it is for a goalkeeper. I think I learned a lot from my first loan at Stockport, building up into Grimsby and then obviously Shrewsbury and now Sheffield United. I’m always learning, everywhere I go. Every scenario is different and I think all of the experiences of playing week in, week out pay off and it’s beneficial for me moving forward. I’ve got a lot of experience to draw from now. I played in some massive games last season – the Steel City derbies [against Sheffield Wednesday], Leeds United at Elland Road. These are big-pressure games and you’ve just got to back yourself and go out and enjoy it as well because it doesn’t last forever. Hopefully that will stand me in good stead at Manchester United.”
For you personally, you were the Golden Glove winner for the most clean sheets in the Championship. Not only is that an individual accolade but it’s a team effort as well. What’s your relationship like with the Sheffield United boys?
“Unbelievable – they’re a great set of lads, great characters. Everyone wants to do well for each other and everyone is pulling in the right direction. I think that comes from the manager. He breeds the right culture throughout the football club and it’s a good working man’s club which is obviously now back in the Premier League where they belong. With the group of lads that we’ve got, hopefully it can be a successful season for us and we can push on and do really well.”
Away from just getting playing minutes, what targets will you set yourself next season for you personally to aid your development?
“Targets? Obviously I’ve got my eye on the England squad – that’s one that really floats my boat and hopefully it can be my year where I break through into that. First and foremost, I’ve just got to go and do the best I can for Sheffield United and get used to the Premier League straight away – then really, from there, everything follows doesn’t it?”
Absolutely! You said there you have one eye on the England shirt. Ole has spoken about you a lot and so too has Gareth Southgate. You’ve proven yourself in the Championship, which is a tough league. How do you keep yourself level-headed with all of that buzz going around you?
“You’ve just got to remember what got you there and then you keep doing that, because at the end of the day you don’t fix what isn’t broken. I work hard every single day to be a better version of myself. At the end of the day, the only competition I’ve got is myself. If I can be the best I can be, there’s no reason why I can’t keep developing and getting up the football ladder.”
Switching back to United, you’ve committed your long-term future here. How much satisfaction does that give to you as a person?
“That’s my dream. It’s always been my dream to break through into the first team, since I was a little boy of four or five years old – all I ever thought about was playing at Manchester United. So, for me to sit here today and say it’s getting closer and closer, every year it gets closer but you’ve got to keep doing the right things and making sure you’re professional and making sure you make the sacrifices. Hopefully one day you’ll get your lucky break and then it’s obviously down to myself to take that and I’m ready when they are.”
Given the people you get to learn from here, not just players but coaches as well, there is just so much knowledge, isn’t there?
“Yeah, 100 per cent. You’ve obviously got the goalkeeping department and I think it’s probably one of the best goalkeeping departments in the world – if not the best goalkeeping department in the world. To learn from some of those goalkeepers and coaches is outstanding. It’s not easy to succeed but everything is here for you to succeed, so you’ve just got to keep working hard and pick up all of the knowledge you can and learn off the likes of David De Gea, Sergio Romero and Lee Grant. From there, you build yourself to the next level.”
And finally, in the long term for you, what is the end goal? Is it to come back to Manchester United and establish yourself here?
“Yeah, 100 per cent. I’ll always stick by it. I’ve always wanted to play for Manchester United and be England’s number one. I’m on the right tracks if I keep developing the way I’m doing and I get a lucky break, because I’ll need a bit of luck along the way. If I get that bit of luck, then I’m sure I will get there in the end.”
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