Tom Heaton Aston Villa

Heaton: I’ll never know how it was an own goal!

Friday 24 September 2021 07:00

Manchester United goalkeeper Tom Heaton has always relished the opportunity to play at Old Trafford as a boyhood Red.

Having returned to the club his footballing journey started at earlier this summer, the 35-year-old awaits his senior United debut but has previously had the chance to play at the Theatre of Dreams on six occasions during his career, as a visitor.

Five of those appearances came while he was donning the colours of Burnley, including that afternoon where his impressive Man-of-the-Match-winning performance frustrated the Reds during a 0-0 draw with the Clarets back in 2016. 

The other, and most recent, of his Old Trafford outings came during the 2019/20 season for Saturday’s opponents Aston Villa. 

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The sides shared the points in that game, following a 2-2 draw, but one particular moment in the match can be debated to this day and still rankles with the keeper. 

After Jack Grealish had put the visitors ahead, Marcus Rashford connected with Andreas Pereira’s cross into the box and looked, from afar, to have headed United level. 

On closer viewing however, Rashford’s header appeared to strike a post before deflecting off the back of Heaton on its way in, with the goalkeeper later accredited with the unfortunate own-goal tag by the Premier League’s Goal Accreditation Panel.

It got Rashford talking at the time, and now our summer signing has had his say on the matter as part of an exclusive interview in Saturday’s edition of United Review.

“How that went down as an own goal, I’ll never know,” Heaton joked in this weekend’s official matchday programme.

“I think it came back off the inside of the post and my hand was close to the line. It was already going in. It’s one of those where I’ve thrown a dive but didn’t get there. 

“How it went down as an own goal and not Marcus’ is beyond me, but such is life. I thought, that day, we may have held out for a win but it wasn’t to be.”

See what you think - should it have been a Heaton own goal, or credited to Rashford?
Victor Lindelof later put the Reds ahead before Villa’s Tyrone Mings ensured the points would be shared, in what was one of Heaton’s 20 appearances for the Villans across a two-year spell.

The goalkeeper joined the club in the summer of 2019 and was first choice at Villa Park on arrival, until an unfortunate long-term knee injury saw him miss nearly a year of football, and ultimately affected his spell in the Midlands, prior to his switch to United on a free transfer in July.

“It was really good [being at Villa]. I went in and really enjoyed that first half of the season. I played every minute but, unfortunately, part of football you have to embrace are injuries,” he reflects in Saturday's United Review.

“It was a nasty one and it took me a long time to get back right again. At the same time, with a period of time, I was able to strengthen everything up. 

“I made sure I gave it enough time and I was back fit for the last three or four months of last season. I made sure I put the work in and then the opportunity [to join United] came up. 

“As I say, I look back with real fond memories and I really enjoyed playing for the side. It’s a great football club and I’ve got a lot of pride at playing for them. I’m delighted to be here now, though, and taking this challenge as well.”
UTD Podcast: Heaton says it's great to be back Video

UTD Podcast: Heaton says it's great to be back

Tom Heaton talks about becoming a United player again, in this clip from his excellent UTD Podcast...

The Chester-born keeper will, of course, be on the home side this time around, come Saturday’s meeting in the Premier League.

The Reds edged a narrow encounter on the Midlands club’s last visit to M16 in January, a game which he was on the bench for Dean Smith's side, and Heaton expects it to be a tight affair again.

“It will be [close on Saturday]. I think they’ve added more signings this summer, so they are probably looking to evolve. 

“Obviously, they lost Jack Grealish to [Manchester] City, but I think they have strengthened in other areas, and I expect a strong attacking display from them. Hopefully, we can keep that quiet and take the game to them in our offensive half.

“I think it will be a strong test, but the focus will be on us and what we do and how we go about it. I think if we get that right, I am confident we will be going out on top.” 

Read the full exclusive interview with Tom Heaton in Saturday’s official matchday programme, United Review.