By Joe Harker
There was a period of time where Manchester United's David De Gea was considered to be the best goalkeeper in the Premier League, and perhaps the world.
In the seasons of decline after Sir Alex Ferguson retired it has often fallen to De Gea to keep United going, he has been their player of the season on four occasions over the last six years.
However, the conversation surrounding the keeper at the moment is whether his club should be looking to move him on in favour of brining in Dean Henderson, an academy graduate currently impressing hugely on loan at Sheffield United.
When it comes to first choice goalkeepers in a football team there can be only one, a combination of mistakes from De Gea and top form from Henderson has started a conversation over what the future holds.
Henderson wants to become the starting keeper at Old Trafford but that is hard to picture while De Gea is still at the club, it is also hard to see the Spaniard being dropped to the bench and falling into a backup role.
The young English keeper is not going to sit around forever and wait for De Gea to move on in his own time, if Man United stick with the Spaniard they risk losing what looks like a ready-made replacement in Henderson, but ditching De Gea would be a massive move considering he was a player the club fought so hard for years to keep.
Considering where United would be without De Gea's saves over the last few seasons it should be unthinkable that his position between the sticks should be under threat, but in the last couple of years mistakes have crept into his game.
Every mistake from De Gea seems to be contrasted with Henderson's consistently impressive displays. The keeper still pulls off top class saves and is considered one of the best shot stoppers in the game but he is perhaps not quite the consistently incredible presence he was a few years ago.
More recent judgments on De Gea have been influenced by the changing role of a keeper in football, particularly among the best teams in the game. He is a shot stopper par excellence but his distribution and command of the box leave something to be desired.
If you were to ask who was the best keeper in the Premier League right now it's very possible that De Gea would have been superseded in the conversation by Liverpool's Alisson, perhaps not quite as good at pulling of saves but better in a "sweeper keeper" role.
There is also the question of longevity. De Gea is 29, not exactly old for a goalkeeper but he certainly has several years on the 23 year old Henderson, who already looks to many like someone fully capable of being United's first choice keeper and is perhaps the best English goalkeeper playing right now.
At some point De Gea is going to leave United, if and when he does the club would be very lucky if they had a player like Henderson ready made to step into the gap, but the younger man is not going to sit around for the next few seasons and wait for a space to become available.
If United wait too long to give Henderson a chance they risk losing him. If he's really the player they hope he is then they might need to clear the way for him to prove it.
The Counter Claim:
However, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has publicly backed De Gea in the face of criticism, calling the Spaniard "the best goalkeeper in the world".
He also noted that despite a high profile error against Tottenham Hotspur the keeper has conceded very few goals in the club's last few games. Even if he makes the odd error he still pulls off a lot of impressive saves.
United's 1-1 draw with Spurs is evidence that it would be hard to say De Gea has lost his ability to pull off top class saves. While he should have done better for Steven Bergwijn's goal only a few minutes later he produced an excellent save to deny Son Heung-min.
There are several reasons why United appear set to stand by their man. He is still first choice in the manager's eyes and signed a four year contract which pays him £375,000 a week at the start of this season. That is a deal a club offers to a player they think has years more top football left in him.
They have also acknowledged that some of the goals De Gea has let in this season have been ridiculous strikes which it would be hard to expect him to save.
Playing for Manchester United is also a completely different job from playing for Sheffield United. The tactical setup, role of the defence and the sort of shots he would be facing would not be the same. De Gea has proven himself at that high level for years, chucking him for Henderson would not be without risk.
This is also a decision United don't need to make right this instant. While Henderson will not wait forever he could be expected to hang on for another season or two while out on loan.
At time of writing (Wednesday afternoon) David De Gea has made 31 appearances in the Premier League this season, conceding 31 goals and keeping eight clean sheets. He has made 78 saves and committed three mistakes which have led to conceding a goal.
Dean Henderson has 29 league appearances for Sheffield United, he cannot play against his parent club, conceding 25 goals and keeping 11 clean sheets. He has made 81 saves and made one error leading to a goal.
Henderson has a slightly higher save percentage than De Gea this season, keeping out 76.85 per cent of shots he has faced compared to the Spaniard's 72.07 per cent rate.
However, both are in the top 10 of Premier League goalkeepers for saves made this season, with Henderson in fourth place and De Gea in eighth.