Goal-line technology’s hitherto unforeseen fallibility was the immediate talking point upon Wednesday’s Premier League return.
Slack host goalkeeper Orjan Nyland was the luckiest man at a deserted Villa Park when a technological error, not witnessed in more than 9,000 previous matches under Hawk-Eye’s glare, saved him from the humiliation of carrying Oliver Norwood’s 42nd-minute free-kick over his line.
This goalless draw between Aston Villa and Sheffield United, however, also bore witness to a more-enduring image; the burgeoning brilliance of Dean Henderson.
An 11th clean sheet of a meritorious campaign – equal to Liverpool’s Alisson – could be cast as applying added pressure to parent-club Manchester United. This game should, though, be viewed as a microcosm of why a third loan stint with the Blades for 2020/21 is the right call for all involved.
At the opposite end of the park, and talent spectrum, to the consistently hapless Nyland, the England prospect did his blossoming reputation no harm.
The 23-year-old’s lightning-fast reactions had not been dulled by 100 days of inactivity. His startling near-post save from the willing Keinan Davis, instead, provided another example of a shot stopper on the verge of joining the game’s elite.
Comparisons with Old Trafford’s resident No1, David De Gea, are favourable to the usurper.
The Spain international’s three errors leading to goals is two more than his understudy. This disparity also showcases a startling assuredness of the junior party, whose sterling recovery is laudable from high-profile mistakes for England at June’s European Under-21 Championship and at Liverpool in September.
Henderson also, according to official Premier League statistics, has the upper hand for; goals conceded (22/30), save-success percentage (77.6/71.7), punches (11/7), high claims (16/5) and sweeper clearances (five/three).
But it is incorrect to cast Henderson as sole saviour for the promoted upstarts. They represent a dream for any young custodian to play behind.
Chris Wilder’s expertly drilled 3-5-2 formation has carried his team up to sixth, when instant relegation was tipped. Structural stability is paramount for the division’s second-meanest rearguard (25 conceded in 29 run-outs) and sixth-leanest attack (30 scored).
Henderson has only had to face 97 on-target attempts.
This is, only, the 14th most in the Premier League. His 75 saves puts him 10th on the list.
Such security has granted the Whitehaven-native a gentle introduction into this unrelenting league. This education would be advanced if the Blades hold onto a, once-unthinkable, European berth – they are currently on track for automatic entry into the Europa League.
Time is another commodity to consider.
There is no obvious destination for De Gea, whose £350,000-a-week wages are not reflective of market conditions amid an expected contraction caused by coronavirus.
Henderson is, also, under contract by the Red Devils until June 2022 and has been offered lucrative terms to extend his stay, reports The Sun.
Ceaseless ambition may yet propel a fiercely confident Henderson back to Old Trafford for next season, or place him at a heavyweight suitor – according to The Telegraph – such as Chelsea or Paris Saint-Germain.
The day will, eventually, come when a decision has to be made by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer about whether to maintain his backing of a De Gea in possible decline, or permanently lose the services of English football’s brightest goalkeeping talent.
All signs, however, point to this being 12 months away.
A reciprocal relationship is apparent between Henderson and Sheffield United. At this juncture, they are just so good for each other.