Exclusive: How our keepers are benefiting from Spain
Manchester United goalkeeping coaches Richard Hartis and Craig Mawson have provided a fascinating insight into the four stoppers who are currently training in southern Spain.
Here, in an interview that you can read and watch in full below, senior coach Hartis explains how his group of goalkeepers is benefitting from a trip to the continent, while also providing an injury update on Lee Grant and offering praise for Dean Henderson’s form with loan club Sheffield United.
Make sure you keep scrolling down to read the thoughts of Mawson, too, who joined the club in December and is relishing the opportunity to work with our world-class stable of goalkeepers…
You have a great group of goalkeepers this week and they are all pushing each other on...
“Yeah, absolutely. David has come out with Sergio, Nathan Bishop has come out and young Jacob Carney, who has been in the Academy for a while. Jacob is out on loan at Stocksbridge Steels at the moment, so he played on Saturday for them and then he has flown out to here, because the Under-23s had a game against Benfica and two twenty-three lads have gone there. So Jacob will grow from this experience of being with the seniors and that is important.”
Lee Grant isn't here after Ole confirmed he has picked up an injury. How is he?
“Yeah he is fine. He has just had a problem with his wrist so we have left him back at home to get some work done with that and some recovery with that. Again, if you look at all of the goalkeepers that we have got, Lee brings a level of experience. David was four times the Player of the Year at this football club and Lee has won that award at three different clubs, so he is a vastly experienced goalkeeper who comes in every day, and is looking to push and drive forward. He wants to play for Man United, that is why he is here, and he will be fine once he gets this little issue with his wrist sorted out.”
There's a storm going on back home in the UK but here the conditions are incredible, so you must be delighted?
“I think it is a great opportunity to do some work with the team, because we've played 47 games this year already. So to have some time to actually do some preparation for both the collective and the individuals is invaluable. The facilities here are excellent, the surfaces are good and it is not too hot, so we can get some good work done.”
This period of time to train is really rare in any season for United, so what kind of work are you looking to do?
“Well, each of them has an individual development plan, so even though they are experts in their profession, they are always looking to get better. This week gives us a little bit of time to do a little bit of work around the individual, some technical work and some tactical work, that we don't normally get the time to do.”
That stable has been boosted in January with young Nathan Bishop joining the ranks. How is he settling in?
“I think he is loving it and he has not stopped smiling! He has come in the door and I think he recognised the opportunity that he has as an individual, to come in and be around the first team, to work with the likes of David, Sergio and Lee. He is on his own career path and I think he sees Man United as a really good opportunity to develop and to grow.”
Nathan has come from Southend so a lot of fans won't have seen him just yet, so what can you tell us about his qualities?
“He is very ambitious, very athletic, very hard working, mentally very strong, he has played 39 games already at that level and for a kid of 20 that is some going really, having come through their system too. So he is somebody who is really going to set the tempo in the training with his attitude, approach and application. He recognises that he has a group of experts in the club, not just technical experts with Michael [Carrick], Kieran [McKenna] and the rest of the coaching staff, but also the physical development side, so he is going to be able to make massive gains by using that team to help him develop as a player.”
On the subject of young goalkeepers, we've also got Dean Henderson out on loan at Sheffield United and performing well. Are you pleased with him?
“Yeah I have been to see Dean a few times, along with the rest of the staff at the club, we keep regular tabs on him and we go to watch him regularly. I happened to see him play against Liverpool at Anfield. So I am really, really pleased with how Dean is progressing. It is a big jump to go from the Championship to the Premier League, but he has shown that he can cope with that level of football at Sheffield United. He is an exciting prospect for us, moving forward as a club, so we are delighted to have him as our goalkeeping pool really.”
Do you sense a real togetherness and determination among the lads ahead of the season run-in?
“Yeah there is, there is, despite what you might hear elsewhere, there is a real drive, commitment and energy about the group. It is an evolving team, we know that, we are in a process of taking this club back to where it should be and we are doing the hard yards now. If I look at the goalkeeping department, Dean is out on loan, Joel Pereira is out on loan, we have another couple of younger lads from the Academy out on loan, so there are a lot of people working very hard to develop themselves. It takes times for people to develop and grow - it is not like instant coffee! You have got to be prepared to wait for that and to do that good work on a daily basis, and we will get there.”
One trip, four goalkeepers gallery
David De Gea, Sergio Romero, Nathan Bishop and Jacob Carney are reaping the rewards of our camp in Spain.
Craig, you've been here for a couple of months now, so how are you settling in at United?
“Yeah, it has been a whirlwind few weeks to say the least, but the staff and the players have been welcoming, so it has been a really easy transition into the environment. It has been at the deep end a little bit, coming in with the games program, which is one of the biggest things that I have noticed here - the game turnover and the amount of games that are crammed into short periods of time, so that has been a massive learning curve for myself.”
Our stable of goalkeepers is up there with the best in the world - probably the best in the world - so how have you enjoyed working with David De Gea and the lads so far?
“It has been brilliant and they have been very welcoming. They have been receptive to our ideas and a sort of newbie coming into their environment. This is the top, top end of the goalkeeping profession and it has been a joy to work with them, and a sort of learning curve for myself to be in and around such top goalkeepers on a daily basis.”
Our no.2 Sergio Romero has consistently shown how dependable he is during his United career, keeping 35 clean sheets in 54 games. What does that say about his reliability?
“I think it is fantastic. We have got a number two who can walk into most teams as a number one. That is how it should be at this football club. He comes out every day and they work really well together, they push each other and they drive the quality of the session. Like you say, when he is called on he never lets anyone down and we know what he is capable of delivering when he plays the games.”
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