Dea-no! Dean Henderson's mistake against Leeds United will test his character... but the goalkeeper will earn Sheffield United more points than he loses this season

A week can be a hell of a long time in football and the fine line between hero and zero is as fine as it's ever been.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 1st December 2018, 2:50 pm
Updated Sunday, 2nd December 2018, 4:30 pm
Dean Henderson
Dean Henderson

Dean Henderson will be feeling that tonight. Seven days after his superb performance at Rotherham earned his Sheffield United side a point - in a game manager Chris Wilder said they were lucky not to lose, but actually could have won until Jamie Proctor's injury-time equaliser for the Millers - it was the Manchester United loanee's error that settled this Yorkshire derby against Leeds United at Bramall Lane.

There's little getting away from that. Henderson has proved popular with fans, players and journalists since sealing his loan switch to the original United from their Manchester namesakes, for how he seems to have 'bought into' the Blades as much as his performances on the field.

But today, he carries the can. Yes, John Egan's backpass wasn't the best, but his own poor left-footed attempt that saw Jack Clarke intercept and square for Pablo Hernandez to roll home didn't get any better the more it was shown on Sky Sports in Bramall Lane's media room after the game.

Opinion seemed split on Twitter, too - by no means an accurate barometer of every fan's feelings, by any stretch of the imagination, but still a useful snapshot to gauge the mood at any given moment in time.

Sometimes, it's also better to judge someone's reaction to a mistake rather than the mistake itself, and Henderson impressed here; he didn't hide, run off or try to shield himself. He fronted up, faced all four stands of Bramall Lane - including the away end, with 2,000 Leeds fans making the most noise they did all game by jeering him - and applauded them.

For me, that took some guts and the reciprocated cheers spoke volumes. Henderson's superb display at Rotherham and that big, big save at a crucial time against Norwich spring to mind immediately - United took four points from those two games when it could very easily have been none - and on that metric alone, the youngster is well in credit.

Dean Henderson

Chris Wilder, the United manager, didn't go overboard in protection of his goalkeeper afterwards, insisting he'll 'be fine' but with the caveat that he isn't, using the manager's own words, there to rub the youngster's head. Again, spot on for me.

This is professional football, 'real football'. No hiding places. And after actively seaking to escape the bubble of academy football at Old Trafford, that's exactly what Henderson signed up for.

In the build-up to last week's game at Rotherham, a video on social media showed Henderson being beaten by Millers' Richard Wood, including twice in the play-off final at Wembley. The first goal saw Henderson try and rush through a crowd of bodies to punch a cross, get nowhere near it and Wood took full advantage.

He took it on the chin - with a bit of added stick from Millers fans and players - and came back stronger, almost helping Shrewsbury into the Championship. That'll have played on his mind last week at the New York Stadium too, no doubt. He walked away with the man of the match award and praised the home fans for their 'banter'.

Henderson isn't short of self-confidence, either, and will have setbacks - bumps in the road, to coin a Wilder phrase - if he is to achieve his aim of being No.1 for Manchester United and England.

Sometimes, it's not about the mistake. It's about the reaction, and one thing is almost certain... Henderson will end this season having earned Sheffield United far more points than he loses.