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Aston Villa have lacked a top-class goalkeeper since Brad Friedel left Villa park to join Tottenham a few years ago. His compatriot Brad Guzan tried his hand at the no.1 spot, but the club got relegated and he moved onto Middlesbrough, where he has found first-team action hard to come by in the presence of Victor Valdes.
Villa have seen a recent turnaround in fortunes since Steve Bruce took over the reins. They have won 5 games, drawn thrice and lost just once during Bruce’s short spell at the club so far. There has been a lot of emphasis on the defence and that has paid dividends as they have leaked fewer goals, at least in comparison with Di Matteo’s time at the club.
Such need for defensive measures has seen Aston villa target another goalkeeper in the form of Sam Johnstone, who is on the books of Manchester United. At 23, he has considerable experience of playing in a lot of English football league clubs. Aston Villa’s no.1 keeper at the moment is actually a former member of Manchester United’s academy. Pierluigi Gollini spent 2 years in Manchester, before moving back to Italy where he was hugely successful with Hellas Verona.
Sam Johnstone has had loan spells at Scunthorpe United, Walsall, Yeovil Town, Doncaster Rovers and Preston North End. He got considerable playing time there and this will definitely encourage Aston Villa in their pursuit of the player. Johnstone extended his contract with United in October and has even managed to impress Jose Mourinho during the Portuguese’s short time at the club. He is clearly well thought of by his new manager, but Jose also sees the need for playing time for Johnstone, as David De Gea and Sergio Romero are the two keepers that have alternated first-team keeping duties.
Mourinho praised Johnstone following the keeper’s decision to renew his contract in October, saying, “Sam is a goalkeeper with great potential. He is a very professional young man with a great attitude to the game. He has progressed immensely even during my short time at the club. I am delighted he has committed his future to Manchester United.”
Pierluigi Gollini who has been Villa’s undisputed number 1 since the commencement of the season has also let his eyes wander as he is eyeing a return to Italy as his time in England hasn’t gone as planned. Thus, Villa and Bruce must prioritise the signing of a new goalkeeper and Johnstone could be the perfect man to stand between the sticks at Villa Park.
Johnstone was also targeted by Wolves, but United rejected the move stating their unhappiness over the treatment of another United loanee, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, who hasn’t seen much playing time at Molineux since his loan move.
At 23, Johnstone is at the perfect age for a goalkeeper to go out and mature. Staying at Manchester United should not be an option for him as it would only be hampering his progress. Instead, going out on loan to a club like Aston Villa might do him a world of good, especially considering that they are looking at him as their no.1 choice and are also willing to make him their no.1 keeper.
Solid performances at Villa might lead to a chance in the United first team picture next season or another loan move could follow for Johnstone. All that said and done, Johnstone should clearly move in January and with Villa showing such clear interest, he should jump at the chance to go and play under former Manchester United legend Steve Bruce.