Heaton reflects on proud day and Onana link-up

Sunday 06 August 2023 19:05

Manchester United goalkeeper Tom Heaton was full of pride after captaining the Reds in Sunday's 1-1 draw with Athletic Club.

The skipper admitted he was just a 'temporary custodian' of the armband – due to Bruno Fernandes playing the entirety of Saturday's victory over Lens – but nevertheless described the experience as 'an honour'.

Heaton joined presenter Helen Evans and former Reds Luke Chadwick and Danny Simpson pitchside at the Aviva Stadium following the game, and delivered a fascinating chat on not just the armband, but his relationship with new goalkeeper Andre Onana, an on-pitch disagreement with Brandon Williams against Dortmund, and United's pre-season as a whole.
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“[The captaincy was] a bit of a surprise I think,” began Tom. “You know, I'm a temporary custodian for the day, but it's still a proud day. It's always an honour to captain Manchester United and I certainly enjoyed that today.

“Pre-season has been good, I've really enjoyed it. I've had plenty of minutes, personally, which has been great. We've put in some really good performances.

“The manager wants to step on to the next level, which is exactly what this football club should be doing. We've gone to different parts of the world, seen all the support for the football club, which has been magnificent. But I think everyone's looking forward to starting the Premier League season and getting going next week.”
Heaton is personally pleased with his own pre-season contribution and revealed that, despite his 37 years, he is feeling as good as at any other point of his career.

“I think if I'm totally honest, I feel absolutely brilliant. It probably helps not having to do the same mileage that the outfielders do. But I don't manage training any different than anyone else.

“That's one of the things, for me: despite getting older, for me you still have to go through day in day out, do everything properly, and if you can't do that, then you might want to ask yourself the question, I think. At the minute, I feel fantastic.

“Yes, don't get me wrong, you have to do everything properly, but so does every single person on that pitch. 17, 18... the demands these days. I think it was 63 games last year. I think Bruno played 62 of them. You have to have the elite-level recovery, elite-level attitude to everything. I certainly aim to do that.”
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Conversation then turned to our new goalkeeper, Andre Onana, who will be competing with Heaton for the no.1 jersey throughout the 2023/24 season. The Englishman is excited as anyone else about the Cameroonian's arrival, which he believes can inspire his own career and development.
“It's been great, actually. He's a real good lad, a real great character,” praised Heaton. “I've really enjoyed the style of his play. I think he'll suit this manager and how he wants to play really well. 
“Hopefully I can learn a bit from him. I know I'm getting older, but I'm always trying to develop and evolve. Hopefully I can offer him something about Premier League football and the requirements and the different challenges.

“He and I have got on really well so far and, as I say, I'm looking forward to working with him, competing with him and then we'll see where it goes.”
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Heaton then continued to talk about the bonding and togetherness throughout the squad, which has richened during the extensive pre-season campaign.

According to Tom, even a much-acknowledged on-field discussion with Brandon Williams, after conceding a goal against Dortmund, was a sign of the squad's growing maturity.

“We've got a few senior players in the team,” he began. “You make your point when it's required. It might be an arm around someone. It might be a raised voice.

“There was a bit made of me and Brandon having a little bit a few games ago, but it's only natural. That happens week in, week out. You want that.

“You need that element, as long as it's all within balance and it's all for the right reasons and there's a respect there that the relationship allows it. Then it can only make everyone better.”