Will Manchester United ever replace Edwin Van Der Sar?
Given the sad news that Edwin van der Sar will retire at the end of the season, it seems Manchester United have a dilemma on their hands. Since the Dutchman joined the Red Devils from Fulham in 2005 there had been a sense amongst many observers that the position of Goalkeeper within the club was solid and secure – in safe hands if you will. Consistently described as ‘the best since Schmiechel’ , Edwin van der Sar will be missed sorely by United fans. The highest compliment most will make is that he can be compared to the Great Dane, one who they see as a part of their city, their history, but van der Sar has ignored these comparisons. As such, his legacy is that United face the exact same problem they did when Schmiechel retired: how to replace the irreplaceable.
The signs coming from United are that they have already chosen a successor. When the reds parted with £3.5m for Anders Lindegaard, the little known Aalesunds FK stopper, many thought it was a simple replacement for Tomasz Kuszczak, as a No.2. who will inevitably move on at the end of the season. Comically, the man that left Odense BK with the arrival Roy Carroll, one of the keepers charged with replacing the legendary Schmiechel, but not living up to the task, was considered as the best goalkeeper in Scandinavia. It seems that United are confident that Lindegaard is the long term replacement for Edwin van der Sar, with descriptions that hint at such a role on the Man United website. United boss Sir Alex Ferguson said: “Anders is one of the brightest young goalkeepers in the game. The challenge at Manchester United is always to look to the future and, in Anders, we have signed a goalkeeper of great presence and even more promise.”
What is certain is that United are taking a huge gamble. By signing a largely unproven player, at a cut price as far as international keepers go, United risk lapsing into the kind of defensive uncertainty that mired the years after Schmiechel retired. Schmiechel himself seems unconvinced at the viability of such a decision. Talking to Beyond the Pitch, he stated: “We are talking about Manchester United here… Too many goalkeepers have been through, in and out of the doors at Manchester United, and the general perception is, for this team to play well and win trophies, that position has to be [filled by] someone who is of the very, very highest quality but also the right experience.”
With other targets looking increasingly available, the German number one Manuel Neuer is almost certain to leave hapless Schalke 04 in the summer; the highly rated Italian youngster Salvatore Sirgiu who is admired by many suitors at Palermo; the impressive David de Gea at Atletico Madrid, amongst a host of capable Premier League stoppers, and yet United could still rue the decision. Van der Sar’s retirement is forcing the issue at Old Trafford. Will they spend, regardless of market forces and a perceived value-for-money transfer policy, in order to keep the net in the safest of hands?
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