Man Utd transfer news: Tom Heaton and Sam Johnstone favourites to replace David de Gea

Aston Villa goalkeeper Tom Heaton warms up against Manchester United at Old Trafford

Manchester United would like to sign another goalkeeper should David de Gea leave the club this summer and two former players are the favourites to replace him, according to The Sun’s Alan Nixon

What is the latest Man Utd transfer news? 

Last month, The Daily Mail claimed de Gea had been offered to Europe’s top clubs in an attempt to move him out of Old Trafford. 

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Though a hugely important figure during the latter days of the Sir Alex Ferguson reign through to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s arrival as the club’s manager in 2018, the Spaniard has been dropped of late. 

Indeed, Dean Henderson has started in goal for the last seven Premier League games and, considering the 30-year-old is believed to be earning around £375k-per-week with just over two years left on his contract, the idea of paying him to be a back-up may not be palatable to those behind the scenes at Old Trafford. 

Who could replace de Gea? 

Nixon mentions both Aston Villa’s Tom Heaton and West Bromwich Albion’s Sam Johnstone as the favourites to replace the Spaniard should he leave. 

Heaton is a product of the club’s academy but left in 2010 without making a first-team appearance, with Johnstone doing the same in 2018 after a seven-year spell.

The former is out of contract at Aston Villa this summer and would represent reasonably cheap back-up given he is now 35, though hasn’t played in the Premier League since suffering a cruciate ligament injury in January 2020. Johnstone, meanwhile, has looked impressive for West Bromwich Albion this season and The Evening Standard recently claimed he would cost £10m this summer. 

Who should they sign? 

Clearly, it’s hard to a direct comparison of Heaton and Johnstone given the former hasn’t played all season. 

Still, looking at FBREF data from Heaton’s performance last season to Johnstone’s this time around, would suggest the West Brom man is the better bet. Not only is he much younger at 28 but he averages more saves per game at a higher save percentage and boasts a much better post-shot expected goals ratio. 

That metric judges how likely a goalkeeper is to save a chance based on the quality of it for the attacker, with positive numbers suggesting an above-average ability to keep good chances out.

Johnstone’s data suggests he’s kept +5.1 shots out that would have been expected to have resulted in goals, while Heaton’s data last season indicates he actually let just over one more goal than he should have done. 

However, given Johnstone has also been linked with Tottenham Hotspur, perhaps convincing him to return to Old Trafford in a back-up role at this stage in his career would be a more difficult task than offering an otherwise out-of-contract Heaton a move back. 

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What has Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said about de Gea? 

Despite dropping him of late, the United boss stressed the fact that he has two great options in goal at the moment. 

“I understand the question and the narrative in the media,” he said to Sky Sports in April. 

“Where there’s tension or potential tension or controversy, that’s where everyone wants to hear a comment from me.

“What I can say is I’ve got great options playing the two of them. Top keepers but of course both of them want to play as much as possible. That’ll be decided on merit. We have to think who will give us a win on any given day.”

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