Dean: Playing for United was a dream
An emotional Dean Henderson has explained he fulfilled a boyhood dream by playing for his beloved Manchester United.
The goalkeeper grew up as a Reds fan and progressed through our Academy after joining at the age of 14. Having built up further experience and continued his development via several loan spells elsewhere, Henderson was rewarded in September 2020 with his senior United debut, against Luton.
Dean went on to total 29 senior appearances and became a senior England international during his time at Old Trafford.
On Thursday, it was confirmed he has completed a permanent transfer to fellow Premier League club Crystal Palace.
Before the 26-year-old set off for south London, he sat down with MUTV’s Mark Sullivan to proudly look back on his United career and send a final message of gratitude to our supporters. Read or watch the interview here...
Dean, always lovely to see you. You've been at Manchester United since you were a boy – what does the club mean to you?
“Listen, this club's everything to me. I moved away at 14 years old to follow my dream of playing for Manchester United and, thankfully, I followed through and I managed to do that. So that's something that I'll always cherish and carry with me everywhere I go.”
You lived the dream which many young boys would love to do and you've got a really strong connection to the club. We feel that from you. Is it something you'll always have, despite playing your football away from United?
“Yeah, 100 per cent. I've been a supporter since I was a young boy. I've come up through the system and love the club through and through. Obviously there have been some highs and some lows at times, but I've got great memories here and I'm really happy to be leaving on good terms.”
Academy players like you always have a really special place at United. How proud are you of the journey you've been on through our Academy?
“Yeah, [it's been] unbelievable. The scheme they put me on when I was 14 years old, to come from Whitehaven, where there's not a lot there, to Manchester, and then obviously to join this scheme along with the likes of Marcus [Rashford] and Scotty [McTominay], they gave us a great platform for us to go and succeed. So I'm really thankful for everybody at the Academy. Over the years, they helped me, supported me and pushed me in the right direction.”
I guess as well as all the staff here at United supporting you, your family must have been an unbelievable support over the years?
“One hundred per cent. I remember the first conversation when I was going to move away from home at 14. I think my mum and dad found it really difficult, but they passed me on, let me go and fulfil this dream, so I'm really grateful for them and for all the support they've given me. It's a three-hour drive every week to come and see me, and they've followed me the whole way, so I'm really thankful for that.”
And your fiancée is supporting you with this move as well...
“She is! She's getting stressed out with all the boxes and stuff, but we'll get there in the end and obviously we had the little boy last week, so it's a difficult time at the minute. But we'll get through it together.”
It will be, I guess, emotional to say goodbye to the people who've been with you on this journey from the age of 14. Is there anyone, or any departments, in particular, that have especially helped you?
“I think everyone has played their little hand in everything throughout, and helped me with different little things. Obviously a strong mention [goes] to the goalkeeping department, like Jack Robinson, Alan Fettis, Kevin Wolfe, all the way through the system, to then obviously Rich Hartis and Craig Mawson now in the first team. But obviously I'll mention them, because I think it was good to come through the Academy and be one of the first goalkeepers to actually achieve playing in the first team, which is something I know we're all proud of.”
It certainly is, and you can always say that you've played for the club you've supported as a boy, and you have been part of successful squads…
“Yeah, 100 per cent. It's a dream come true to have pulled on the shirt and played at Old Trafford, in European competitions, in FA Cups, Carabaos and, most importantly, the Premier League. That was something I really wanted to do from a young age. It'll be sad to leave.”
And being part of the squad, Dean, you've had some big moments. Is there any moment which stands out in particular to you from your time at United?
“I think looking back, obviously pulling the shirt on for the first time, away at Luton in the cup. I think that was my debut actually, and that was such a special moment. It was probably a week after that... it didn't really sink in that I'd actually managed to achieve it. As I say, growing up as a young boy, it's all I ever wanted and to do that, I'm really pleased.”
But you have always put pressure on yourself to succeed and go and achieve, and you're doing that with a new start. How excited are you for this new chapter in your career?
“Listen, I'm a very driven individual, so I think now is the right time for me to go and hopefully maximise my potential. For me, sometimes it comes across in the wrong way, with my confidence and stuff. But the reality is that I just don't want to look back on my career and think that I haven't reached my full potential, because that's something that I really want to do. I'm driven to do that and very interested to see where that can take me.”
And for all the United fans who've supported you on this journey, what would you say as a message of farewell?
“A huge thank-you to everyone, from the bottom of my heart. I love the club, I'll keep supporting them, and I've just had a little boy myself and he'll be a Red! Thanks for everything and I wish you all the best for the future.”