Signing Lee Grant makes perfect sense for Manchester United
Tucked away amid the build-up to England’s game with Colombia, Manchester United and Stoke City announced goalkeeper Lee Grant had completed his rumoured move to the Red Devils. The move met with perplexion from United fans and derision by others. Mischievous trolls suggested Grant was signed to be the club’s new number one keeper following David de Gea's rough World Cup. As if. Banter aside, the move makes sense.
The 35-year-old will be United’s third choice goalkeeper. He’s there to provide cover for De Gea and Sergio Romero. Barring a serious injury to one or the other, the closest Grant will come to a game for the club will be a pre-cup-match when De Gea has the night off.
Why sign him, then? Surely United have other goalkeepers who can do the job. They do, but it would be counterproductive to have them do it. Joel Perriera or Dean Henderson could both handle the assignment. Perreira has. Both are young keepers for whom the club has high hopes. Appearing in the matchday squad once every couple of months won’t do either any good. Their development is better served by loan moves that allow each regular matches.
Henderson took this route last season at League One Shrewsbury Town. He won plaudits, friends and admirers for backstopping the Shrews to a playoff final. He has taken another loan this campaign, making the step up to the Championship with Sheffield United.
United want Perriera back on the same path. Without a third-choice keeper, it wasn't possible. With Grant on board, Perriera is free to go. The club is seeking out the best loan partner now. The 6' 2" Swiss netminder is considered a target for several Spanish and Italian sides. Real Betis, Sevilla, Real Sociedad, Fiorentina, Torino and Atalanta were all listed in an ESPN report in May. More recently, Everton have been touted as a destination. The Toffees need a backup for Jordan Pickford with Joel Robles gone. United may want a club where Perreira would start, as Henderson did for Shrewsbury Town.
Meanwhile, at 35, Grant has had his career. With the twilight fading, he is more than happy to fill a role for United. He is returning to the scene of his finest hour. In 2016, he made a multitude of saves to preserve a shock 1-1 draw for Stoke at Old Trafford.
The move is vintage Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese habitually signs experienced keepers as his third choice. Ricardo, Eduardo, Hilario, Mark Schwarzer, and Marco Amelia for instance. He even signed Diego Lopez at Real Madrid, first as cover before eventually making him number one. Relax, though. That scenario is unlikely for Grant.
Other clubs do the same. Manchester City signed Richard Wright in 2012. The Ipswich Town legend retired after four seasons, having never played a single minute for the club.
Despite confusion among United faithful and sniggering from rivals, signing Grant was an astute move that allows United's promising young goaltenders to gain valuable experience while ensuring there is a reliable option available to the club should an emergency arise.