Manchester United overpowered Tottenham in the end and ran out deserved 3-1 winners but the crucial period in the match came around the hour mark after Fred had scored the equaliser. Twice Spurs came close to restoring their lead. Twice they were denied by Dean Henderson.
The first opportunity fell to Heung-Min Son, scorer of the game’s opening goal. He cut inside on his favoured right foot and unleashed a firm shot that was close to the United goalkeeper, who thrust out a trusty right boot. United fans have seen that before. “It is a De Gea save,” said Gary Neville.
There was an even better stop to prevent Harry Kane scoring later in the half, a fierce strike by the Tottenham forward that would have snuck past many a goalkeeper. Henderson stretched out his foot again. The hand would surely have been too slow. He has been learning from De Gea.
But it was the incident just after the Son save that perhaps had wider significance even though it is unlikely to make the highlights package. Jose Mourinho had responded to United’s goal by bringing on Moussa Sissoko for Giovani Lo Celso and moving Tanguy Ndombele into an advanced role.
The switch almost paid off instantly. Ndombele collected the ball near the halfway line before threading a pass in behind Harry Maguire that seemed perfectly measured to find the onrushing Kane. Instead, Henderson was off his line quickly to meet it, clearing the danger in the process.
Neville spotted it. “That is a couple of times from Henderson, one in the first half that I don’t think we highlighted and one there, where he was really [well] positioned and off his line,” he noted on co-commentary for Sky Sports.
In fact, it was one of three times in the match Henderson performed what Opta defines as accurate keeper sweepings – when a goalkeeper anticipates danger and rushes off their line to try to either cut out an attacking pass or to close down an opposition player.
Henderson currently averages 1.23 accurate keeper sweepings per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season, more than any other regular goalkeeper in the competition. More pertinently, he comes off his line to sweep up this danger far more often than the man he has replaced in the team, David de Gea.
De Gea has many admirable assets as a goalkeeper. That save with the feet is a trademark, even changing the way the modern goalkeeper approaches low stops close to the body. But coming off his line to clear balls away from danger is something that does not come so naturally to him.
The statistics show that in De Gea’s 337 Premier League appearances for Manchester United, he has only made three accurate sweeper keepings in a game – as Henderson did against Tottenham – on three occasions. Never in any of those 337 appearances has he done so more than three times.
It is important because it is a goalkeeper’s best chance of snuffing out danger before it arises. It requires proactive thinking. Good judgment is essential because there is an element of risk. But having a goalkeeper who can do it well also allows a team to defend in a different way.
It allows a team to push up that extra few yards, safe in the knowledge the goalkeeper will be off their line to cover. That is something United have not been able to do, something highlighted by Neville earlier this season. “Both Maguire and Lindelof don’t shift up,” he explained.
“They don’t move their feet three, four, five yards. They never do and they have to do it. If they don’t start doing it, they’re never going to get to a point where they’re going to win the league. They both seem to drop back a little bit and you need someone who can get them up the pitch.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been trying to oversee that evolution from the more dismal days of Mourinho’s final season in charge. There were 12 teams in the Premier League who won the ball back higher than United in the 2018/19 season. Last season it was four. Now it is only two.
Neville’s thinking was a dominant centre-back could help with this but a dominant goalkeeper can perform the same function, encouraging that higher defensive line with their actions. Henderson is relatively inexperienced but he is showing the mentality required of the man in that role.
“It is a big ask,” said Neville. “I think it is the job in football that is scrutinised the most, Manchester United’s No 1. Any mistake, it is a position that you just get absolutely punished in and I am always aware that when Manchester United have had good goalkeepers they have done well.
“He is a young goalkeeper but in the first five or 10 games that he has played he has been really confident and really secure. You have to have courage to play that position, full stop.”
Henderson has it and after this latest display he can expect further opportunities to enhance his reputation. Solskjaer has refused to make it explicit who his first-choice goalkeeper is – De Gea started in Europe on Thursday – but this fifth Premier League start in a row tells its own tale.
“I think he sees Dean Henderson as his number one now,” Roy Keane told Sky Sports. “He has trusted him to play the big games and will give him until the end of the season unless he has a complete disaster, so I think De Gea is under huge pressure now to get back into the team.”
The hope for Manchester United is that they have found a goalkeeper who not only possesses some of the Spaniard’s best traits, but one who brings special qualities of his own to the role too.
The Toronto Raptors have not exactly gotten the warmest welcome in their temporary home this season. Now it sounds like they are itching to get the heck out of Dodge.
Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports reported this week that there are Raptors players and other members of the organization who cannot wait to leave Tampa, Fla. They are said to be counting down the days until they can pack their bags, take their families and leave on May 17.
The Raptors have their last regular-season contest on May 16. They are four games out of the play-in tournament zone with five games left, meaning they are all but certain to miss the playoffs and see an early end to their season.
Tampa has played home to the Raptors this year with Toronto unavailable due to COVID-19 restrictions. The partnership has been frosty at best with the Raptors even recently getting booed by the local fans. It is probably safe to say that there will not be any NBA basketball in Tampa after this season.
Manchester United are hoping to raise funds from player sales to help finance a move for Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland.
According to We All Follow United via Express, the Red Devils are planning to sell Jesse Lingard and either David de Gea or Dean Henderson, to raise £70m in the summer. The money will then be invested in bringing the Norwegian striker to Old Trafford.
Manchester United have reportedly made Haaland their number one target ahead of the summer, but Dortmund have slapped an astronomical fee on the player. The Norwegian has been on a brilliant run of form since his move to the Bundesliga side. Haaland has scored 47 goals in 48 games since joining Dortmund from RB Leipzig in January of 2020.
Haaland is the target-man Ole Gunnar Solskjaer desires at Old Trafford, even though the player has already rejected Manchester United on two occasions in the past.
However, the Black and Yellows want a fee of over £100m for the Norwegian, which could be a problem for the Red Devils. Interestingly, Haaland’s £70m release clause will only come into effect in the summer of 2022.
Solskjaer has already revealed that Manchester United will not be able to spend freely in the transfer market due to the financial repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, the Red Devils are planning to raise funds from the sales of Jesse Lingard and one of their goalkeepers.
The Englishman has impressed while on loan with West Ham United and could be allowed to leave for around £20m. The Hammers are reportedly desperate to sign the player on a permanent deal, which will work in Manchester United’s favor.
The Red Devils could also sell one of De Gea and Henderson in the summer, with the Englishman currently valued at £50m. Paul Pogba could also be allowed to leave unless he signs a contract extension at the end of the season. Manchester United, however, are eager to retain the Frenchman.
Funds raised from player sales will help the Red Devils compete with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea, who are also monitoring Haaland.
Manchester United want to end the season on a high note
Manchester United are currently second in the Premier League and are also in the final of the UEFA Europa League final, where they will face Villarreal on 26 May. The Red Devils have five games remaining in the Premier League and will want to end the season on a high nite despite their congested fixture list.
When Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft concluded, several first-round talents had yet to be taken. Many viewers were shocked to see names like Asante Samuel Jr., Teven Jenkins, Trevon Moehrig, Jevon Holland, Christian Barmore, and Levi Onwuzurike still available after 32 picks. However, the most notable exception from the Day 1 selections was Notre Dame linebacker, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
According to multiple reports, JOK dropped on many teams’ draft boards because of a “heart issue that came up late in the process,” per Adam Schefter. That sounds serious. That definitely warrants teams being skeptical of selecting him, right? Well, here’s the thing…..JOK had already been cleared by medical professionals prior to the draft. After selecting Owusu-Koramoah with the 52nd overall pick, Browns GM Andrew Berry said “He’s completely healthy. There’s nothing really in his background that would suggest he can’t have a nice, long career.”
JOK’s talent is obvious to everyone. The selection has been universally praised by damn near everyone. I mean, he’s a linebacker with slot cornerback speed. That will always be a valued asset in the National Football League. Despite being the 23rd defensive player taken in the draft, most sites give Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah top-5 odds to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award in the upcoming NFL season. Some sites believe JOK should be the top choice for the award. JOK won the Dick Butkus Award in 2020, awarded each season to college football’s best linebacker (other notable recipients of the award include Patrick Willis, Von Miller, Luke Kuechly, and Devin White). He also earned the distinction of 1st team All-American, 1st Team All-ACC, and ACC Defensive Player of the Year. With a resume like that, it makes you wonder why any team would wait until Day 2 of the NFL Draft to take the 21-year-old despite the health concern.
Other prospects with more serious injury concerns haven’t fallen nearly as far in the past. Take Jaylen Waddle, the number 6 overall selection in the most recent NFL Draft. Waddle, a former Alabama wide receiver, missed almost the entire 2020 college football season with a fractured right ankle. Ankle injuries are particularly worrisome for wide receivers as being able to push off your foot and change direction on a dot are keys to getting open. However, that injury didn’t hurt Waddle’s draft stock. In fact, Waddle went before his teammate and 2020 Heisman Trophy winner, DeVonta Smith. Smith did suffer a dislocated finger, but that injury barely kept him out of one game.
Even more egregious is the NFL’s concern over JOK compared to guys with non-drug related off-field issues. Prior to the draft, Alabama quarterback Mac Jones was held in high regard for his good decision-making. Now, I think we all can agree that drinking and driving is never a good decision to make. So, why didn’t that hurt Jones’s draft stock at all?
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Maybe comparing quarterbacks to linebackers is a bit of a stretch — apples to oranges. So then let’s compare JOK to another recent linebacker with an injury history. Reuben Foster had a torn right rotator cuff surgically repaired two months before the 2017 NFL Draft. He also had a history of aggressive behavior and anger management issues, even having to be removed from the 2017 NFL Combine after getting into an altercation with one of the medical staff on the premises. Foster did fall in the draft, but was still selected in the first round with the 31st pick by the San Francisco 49ers. Foster fell approximately 10-15 spots from where he was projected. Owusu-Koramoah, despite having no such history with surgeries or aggression, and after playing every single game for Notre Dame last season, fell approximately 35-40 spots.
It boggles my mind that a player everyone knew was fantastic and every fan, analyst, and general manager acknowledges as an incredible talent, would drop so far for such a minor health concern. Coming into the draft, Owusu-Koramoah was my number one defensive prospect. I am still absolutely confident that he will win Defensive Rookie of the Year. And when he does, hopefully teams won’t pass on the next guy to play an incredible season of football with a seemingly resolved health issue in their past.