Tom Heaton sends message to David de Gea and Dean Henderson in Man Utd No.1 battle

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Tom Heaton insists he has not returned to Manchester United to simply make up the numbers.

Heaton, who spent eight years at United without playing a game, returned to the club this summer as a free agent, after spells at clubs including Burnley and Aston Villa.

The 35-year-old is currently third-choice goalkeeper behind Dean Henderson and David De Gea, but said he is determined to stake his claim for a starting place.

Heaton impressed in a 45-minute outing in United's 2-1 friendly win over Derby at Pride Park on Sunday, making some fine saves to underline his belief he can challenge for the No.1 spot.

“That’s the plan,” said Heaton. “Of course I’ve had a fair bit of experience under my belt, so I think I can add perhaps a different dimension to the department.

Heaton made his first United appearance at Derby on Sunday
(Image: Action Images via Reuters)

“There’ll be a professional respect and support all the way through it. But, personally, that’s the aim. Everywhere I’ve been in my career you step on and try and get in the team.

“Of course I’m aware of the challenge here. There are some fantastic goalkeepers here.

“It’s a fantastic goalkeeping department. But, personally, of course you come here and want to try and get in the team.

“That’s what I’ll be trying to do, but at the same time making sure there’s a support and an element of competitiveness throughout the department.”

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Heaton, who earned three England caps while playing for Burnley in the Premier League, said he aims to use pre-season to form a bond and understanding with his new United team-mates.

United are currently on a week-long training camp in Surrey, before their next pre-season encounter, at Queen's Park Rangers, on Saturday.

“For me, it was great to get started after seven weeks off,” said Heaton.

Henderson and De Gea have been going head-to-head for the No.1 spot
(Image: PA)

“With the Euros, it was quite a long summer if you weren’t involved in it. So it was nice to get back out there and meet a few of the boys.

"I'm starting to get a good relationship with a few of the young boys, which has been nice. It's not always possible when you join up with the first-team squad, so that’s been good.

"You build those relationships, find out how people work. So it should be a really good week.”

United's summer transfer budget will not allow them to meet Real Madrid's £50million valuation of defender Raphael Varane, meaning a compromise must be met if he is to move to Old Trafford.

Varane, who has a year left on his deal with Real, is keen on the move to United, who are willing to pay no more than £40m for the 28-year-old France World Cup winner.

Personal terms between United and Varane are all but agreed, with the only potential obstacle to the deal going ahead the fee to be paid for the centre-back.

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