Heaton: I’ll never know how it was an own goal!
Manchester United goalkeeper Tom Heaton has always relished the opportunity to play at Old Trafford as a boyhood Red.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.