Manchester United handed 21-year-old goalkeeper Nathan Bishop a new contract this week, extending his deal with the club until the summer of 2023.
Bishop has never played a first-team game for United, but the level of love and respect his teammates have posted on social media in the wake of Monday’s announcement is telling about how popular he is and how he conducts himself on a day-to-day basis.
Fellow goalkeeper David de Gea replied to United’s post on Instagram with a ‘heart eyes’ emoji, while Juan Mata called Bishop a ‘top guy and top professional’.
The comments from other colleagues on social media were similar, with Bruno Fernandes labelling him a ‘top lad’ and saying he is an ‘amazing professional’.
Scott McTominay added: “This makes me happy seeing this. What a professional.”
Contrary to assumption, Bishop is not United’s Under-23 goalkeeper. He has only made one appearance in any competition this season, in the EFL Trophy against Salford City, and the club’s usual reserve team stoppers have been Ondrej Mastny and Paul Woolston.
Instead, seemingly the best way of summing up Bishop’s role at Old Trafford is to borrow a term from the NFL and refer to him as a member of the ‘practice squad’. That is to say, he trains every day with the first team and works closely with senior goalkeeping trio De Gea, Dean Henderson and Lee Grant, but he is not really in proper contention to play games…or even get on the bench.
Bishop is obviously eligible to play, unlike actual NFL ‘practice squad’ players. But as United’s fourth choice goalkeeper his contributions on the training pitch are much more important at this stage and are obviously keenly felt by his teammates, given their reaction to his reward of a new contract.
Bishop joined United in January 2020 from League Two Southend, initially signing a contract until 2022. His arrival actually caused some confusion when he reported for his medical, with one senior local journalist mistaking him for Norwegian midfielder Sander Berge, who United had previously scouted but was already on the verge of joining Sheffield United.
The goalkeeper had not long turned 20 when he made the switch to Manchester, but already had a good amount of first-team experience under his belt for one so young.
Bishop had become first choice at Southend midway through the 2018/19 season and was then in and out of the struggling team again in 2019/20. United scouts obviously saw enough potential in him to recommend him and the deal was done at the end of the January window.
For Bishop now, the aim has to be to keep training and continue impressing the people he is working with. He will develop at United, which will either put him better into contention for a place in the team, or at least prepare him for a good career elsewhere, while serving the club in the meantime.