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Why Erik ten Hag should sign this U21 Danish goalkeeper to challange David de Gea at Manchester United

Yusuf Haq

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Why Erik ten Hag should sign this U21 Danish goalkeeper to challange David de Gea at Manchester United

Manchester United needs a new goalkeeper. If it wasn’t obvious before, then it is painfully obvious now.

David de Gea hasn’t been up to scratch since 2018 but has been difficult to replace due to the contract Manchester United gave him, one which no sensible club in world football would even consider.

Saturday’s thrashing at the hands of Brentford was possibly his worst ever performance in a United shirt, and just two games in it’s painfully clear that Erik ten Hag cannot implement his style with De Gea in goal.

Who do the Red Devils target as his replacement is the question? Names like David Raya would be the first to come to mind. Links to Alex McCarthy have emerged too.

One name who, despite being unknown to many, should be high on United’s list is Brøndby IF and Denmark U-21 goalkeeper Mads Hermansen.

Mads Hermansen. (Alamy)
Mads Hermansen. (Alamy)

The 22-year-old stopper is one of the brightest talents coming out of Denmark in what looks to be a golden generation for the Nordic country.

Standing at 1.87 metres tall, Hermansen is an extremely commanding goalkeeper who always makes himself as big as possible when contesting both shots and crosses. He is excellent at defending both.

The Dane is not afraid to leave his line to sweep, contest crosses and smother the ball when attackers get free in the box, he will contest them.

However, he also has a strong understanding of when to back off and buy himself more time, which is especially helpful in long range 1v1 scenarios (something De Gea is typically very good at).

Shot stopping is a particular strength of his. He has excellent reflexes, knows how to adjust his body well when facing attackers and is very quick to smother any kind of loose ball within the box, whether parried by him or a result of a loose touch.

Aouar gets free in the box 1v1 against Hermansen (Olympique Lyonnais)Aouar gets free in the box 1v1 against Hermansen (Olympique Lyonnais)

Hermansen reacts quickly, making himself as big as possible and closing down Aouar which leads to a huge save (Olympique Lyonnais)Hermansen reacts quickly, making himself as big as possible and closing down Aouar which leads to a huge save (Olympique Lyonnais)

His presence is always felt when he is in goal, and this extends to in possession too where he is an extremely positive keeper who is always looking to get involved.

Hermansen always shows himself for the ball to offer his teammates an extra option in buildup, and is capable of disguising passes to break lines on the ground. 

Hermansen receives the ball under pressure… (beIN Sports)Hermansen receives the ball under pressure… (beIN Sports)

…but calmly plays it through to his midfielder, taking the Rangers centre forward out of the game and freeing up the centre back for the ball to be laid off to (beIN Sports)…but calmly plays it through to his midfielder, taking the Rangers centre forward out of the game and freeing up the centre back for the ball to be laid off to (beIN Sports)

He is also adept at playing over a press with a long ball, or finding a fullback or winger out wide when teams press through the middle.

His long passing is a particular strength, and one that he often utilises for Brøndby. He is comfortable under pressure and his ability to spray these balls helps his side massively when facing a high press.

United encountered issues in this aspect on Saturday. Erik ten Hag instructed his players to go more direct in their buildup after attracting Brentford’s high press.

De Gea, however, was not smart enough to see the space behind the Brentford press that could have been exploited, and in the past he has shown he lacks the technical ability to execute these passes.

Hermansen’s distribution is not limited just to passing, with the stopper also capable of producing long and accurate throws to kickstart attacks.

Hermansen comes off his line to deal with a dangerous ball in behind (beIN Sports)Hermansen comes off his line to deal with a dangerous ball in behind (beIN Sports)

He quickly gets up and releases Bruus with space to drive into with a throw (beIN Sports)He quickly gets up and releases Bruus with space to drive into with a throw (beIN Sports)

Bruus plays Hedlund in behind, leading to a good opportunity. All stemming from Hermansen’s clever play (beIN Sports)Bruus plays Hedlund in behind, leading to a good opportunity. All stemming from Hermansen’s clever play (beIN Sports)

On top of all these skills, despite his extremely young age for a goalkeeper, Mads Hermansen possesses excellent leadership abilities. 

Mads has captained his country at youth level and places responsibility upon himself to be a leader every game. On the Gloves On podcast, he said “I see myself as the captain every time I step on the pitch.”

Whether in or out of possession, he is constantly seen instructing his teammates as to where they should be positioned and offers them great encouragement, part of why fans love him so much.

At a club like United, where leadership is lacking, this would be a more than welcome trait. His loud, commanding nature would fill centre backs with confidence.

One thing he could improve on is sometimes when facing crosses, it feels as though he could come out to claim them although will choose to rely on his shot stopping instead.

This is understandable as he is an excellent shot stopper, he is also very young so has more than enough time to improve. When he does claim, he does so very dominantly which is a good sign.

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Last Thursday, he saved a penalty in Drengene fra Vestegnen’s shootout loss to Basel, reading Ádám Szalai’s attempt to shoot down the middle very well.

To be a team’s number one goalkeeper at the age of just 21 indicates a player has a lot of talent, and Mads Hermansen is one of the most talented young goalkeepers in Europe right now.

Whilst some big clubs might want to see him at another side or give him longer at Brøndby before going for him, it is worth going for him now.

He clearly has the ability to succeed at a top club and at the moment he will still be fairly cheap. He would likely cost 15-20 million, a steal for a player that could sort out a crucial position for the next decade.

Week in week out now he is performing as Brøndby’s best player, and whilst a deal is unlikely it would be smart business from United who are in desperate need of a goalkeeper.

Hermansen walks in as an immediate improvement on what United have, and has the potential to be one of if not the best goalkeeper in the league in two or three years' time if he keeps progressing at this rate.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Manchester United, Erik Ten Hag, David De Gea

Yusuf Haq
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