David De Gea's latest mistake wasn't enough to dim Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's praise for the Manchester United goalkeeper, although the latter warned about competition from Dean Henderson next season.
Red Devils chief Solskjaer saw De Gea gift a goal to Everton during Sunday's 1-1 draw at Goodison Park. The Spaniard played a pass against Dominic Calvert-Lewin, causing the ball to deflect into the net in the fourth minute.
Solskjaer was asked about De Gea's status as United's No. 1, but he declared his faith in his faltering first choice, per Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News:
"But David's shown his reaction, the way he made amends and saved Sigurdsson's goal, or chance, at the end. David's the best goalkeeper in the world, Dean is a very good challenger and then Sergio (Romero)'s a decent challenger as well.
"We want a squad full of quality and with competition and if you want to survive at the top you need to bounce off competitions from right, left and centre.
"He went through a difficult patch last season, definitely, but David's been very, very good this season. I can't really remember any errors I'd go to now, apart from Watford one (Ismaila Sarr's goal). I trust David 100 per cent in the goal."
Solskjaer's reference to De Gea's blunder during the 2-0 defeat away to Watford on December 22 emphasises the mistake-prone nature of the 29-year-old's campaign:
An unwanted number like this serves as tangible doubt about Solskjaer's contention De Gea is the best on the planet at his position. No longer a reliable last line of defence, De Gea has shown an increasingly vulnerability.
Any decline may be due to the burden on the former Atletico Madrid star's shoulders while United have struggled since Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down in 2013. No longer regulars in the title picture, the Red Devils have needed their goalkeeper to bail them out of trouble more often.
De Gea responded brilliantly to the challenge while his club recycled managers and moved in and out of the top four on the watch of David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho. Being awarded United's Player of the Season gong in four out of five years only underlined De Gea's importance and the quality of his performances.
Having to do too much may have taken its toll on De Gea, although not everybody is convinced. Former United skipper Roy Keane watched the Everton game as a pundit for Sky Sports, and he chided De Gea for his "arrogance" (h/t Goal):
Regardless of the reason, De Gea isn't quite the force he once was, naturally prompting questions about Henderson. The 22-year-old will return to Old Trafford in the summer following a successful loan spell with Sheffield United.
Henderson's saves have helped the Blades gain promotion from the Championship and move up to the lofty heights of eighth in England's top flight. His raw talent has some believing United's youngster is ready for more at international level, particularly after Everton and England No. 1 Jordan Pickford failed to keep out Bruno Fernandes' equaliser:
Henderson has also been making a strong case to supplant De Gea, keeping nine clean sheets this season, compared with the latter's seven, per the league's official website. Accelerating Henderson's ascent to the starting job may help United cash in if Real Madrid were to revive interest in De Gea, although Thibaut Courtois' performances this season likely mean Los Blancos are set at the position.
There is little doubt Henderson is a star on the rise, but it's also beyond dispute De Gea remains a gifted presence between the sticks. Solskjaer's right to salute the resilience that saw De Gea deny Calvert-Lewin superbly mere moments after his early mistake.
The save to block Sigurdsson's block from inside the box ultimately preserved a point for United. Protecting and earning points has been De Gea's norm for United, and there's still little reason for the club to trust anyone else with the No. 1 shirt.