Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer explains why he resigned goalkeeper Tom Heaton and his thinking behind the contract extensions handed out recently to Juan Mata and Lee Grant.
In an exclusive interview with the official Manchester United website, Solskjaer said: “Tom is a Manchester United player.
“He’s been here and felt this is coming home and closing the circle. He’s had a very, very good career so far and been a part of the England set-up.
“For him to come in now, taking his challenge, I think is what he needed, that last step now. He’s such a top professional and such a top guy to have around and that will help the young lads.”
All three players we are talking about here are in their 30s, arguably past their best, but can still play an important role in the team, especially behind the scenes. Heaton has the best shot at being backup goalkeeper to either Dean Henderson or David de Gea, but first the manager must make a decision on who to let go this summer.
— Tom Heaton (@TomHeatonGK) July 5, 2021
I’m beginning to wonder whether Grant and Mata will have coaching roles at the club down the line. Solskjaer certainly think they have a huge amount to offer and he’s probably right in that we need senior players who can provide a good example to younger United players.
That was important during the Norwegian’s time as a player at the club, so I’m not surprised to see it in his coaching today.
With players like Mason Greenwood and Amad Diallo in the squad and eager to develop into even better prospects, it’s important that senior pros like Edinson Cavani are there to lead them in the right direction.
“We are a young squad and that’s been part of the thinking,” he added.
“We have the professionals that can be an example day in and day out. Our young lads think they know it because we bring the up through the Academy and they do learn good habits. But then they come into the first team and see World Cup winners like Juan and the way he conducts himself, even if he doesn’t play.
“He didn’t play as much as he would have liked to last year but he’s never ever letting himself or his team down with his attitude. So [they are] good examples and Lee, as well, knows he’s got good goalkeepers ahead of him but the example he sets is something we have to reward them [for] and it makes the group better, and they’re still good players.”