Manchester United goalkeeper Sam Johnstone says that he is becoming to come around to the notion that he will have to leave Old Trafford if he is to reach his potential.
The 25-year-old has been on loan at Aston Villa this season and after a tricky start has established himself as an integral part of a team now pushing for promotion via the playoffs.
After 15 years with the Red Devils, during which he failed to feature for the first team, he feels the time may have come to admit defeat and take a step backwards if he is to finally move forwards.
“If you leave, then the one downside is that you haven’t played despite being there since you were 10,” he told the Guardian. “I’d have liked to have done it. But you’ve got the world’s best goalkeeper, David de Gea, at the club and you can’t wait around forever.
“[Being on loan has] been fun getting games in and getting different experiences but I’m 25 now and ready to settle. Hopefully Villa get promoted and we’ll take things from there.”
Johnstone has taken inspiration from the exploits of Michael Keane, whose career has kicked on since he left United, first with Burnley and then with Everton. The centre-back has worked his way into the England set-up – and that is the keeper's ultimate goal too.
“You realise you might have to take the example of someone like Michael Keane, who went to Burnley and has gone from strength to strength,” he said.
“When we were younger Michael wasn’t really in the frame, he was probably a late developer but then he kicked on and progressed quickly.
“He’s always been a very good player but he went on loan, got games, then decided to leave and carry on that progression. If you choose to leave, you have to choose the right club, the one where you’ll play the most games. Ultimately that’s what whoever picks the England team looks at.
“I have to create my own career. You want to be challenging to get into the England setup. Nick Pope gets into the Burnley team because of an injury, does very well and then gets his call-up. It just shows the manager [Gareth Southgate] is watching and hopefully he has me in mind even though I’m in the Championship.”