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Palace’s Dream Debut Turns Bittersweet at Old Trafford

Crystal Palace’s Unfortunate Evening

In the world of football, there are tales of success, comebacks and heartbreak. Dean Henderson’s debut for Crystal Palace had the makings of a poignant chapter in the last category. As if the scriptwriters of fate decided to add an ironic twist, it had to be at Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United – the club he just left.

A Desire for First-Team Football

Henderson’s journey has been one of ambition. Keen to step out of the shadows and not be confined to the bench, he moved from Manchester United. His aspiration? Regular first-team football. Yet, his new path in the Crystal Palace shirt didn’t commence as he would’ve hoped. He warmed the bench for the initial three fixtures. Notably, he didn’t feature for Manchester United in August or during the pre-season either.

A Debut Cut Short

In a twist of irony, when Henderson finally got the nod to start, it was against his former club. The stage was set for a memorable outing. However, a cruel fate had other plans. Barely 20 minutes into the game, Henderson had to make way for Sam Johnstone after an apparent injury while clearing the ball.

The Hodgson Choice: Johnstone Over Henderson?

Interestingly, ever since the £15m signing of Henderson late in the summer, Roy Hodgson seemed to favour Johnstone. This preference was evident as he was between the posts even after Henderson’s arrival.

Echoes of Past Injuries

This isn’t the first time injury has thrown a spanner in Henderson’s journey. His stint with Nottingham Forest last season ended prematurely due to a similar concern. Forest’s hesitation to seal a deal with Man United was in part due to these injury woes. They eventually chose to bring in talent like Matt Turner from Arsenal and Odysseas Vlachodimos from Benfica.

The England Dilemma: Henderson vs Johnstone

This setback couldn’t have come at a worse time. Henderson’s aspirations to don the England jersey in the upcoming European Championships might take a hit, especially with no clear word on his recovery timeline. Meanwhile, Johnstone, his competitor at Crystal Palace, is already making a mark as the third-choice in Gareth Southgate’s England ensemble, tailing Jordan Pickford and Aaron Ramsdale.

Johnstone’s Performance and Hodgson’s Selection Headache

Despite Palace’s dreary 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford, where Johnstone conceded thrice after coming on, he’s likely to get the nod for the starting XI in their upcoming league clash against United. Following the resounding loss and seven changes made from the side that squared off against Fulham, Hodgson faces a selection conundrum. Will he favour the tried and tested or will the fringe players get another shot?

Henderson’s debut might have been cut short, but in the grand theatre of football, there’s always another act. It’s now a waiting game to see how this story unfolds.

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