Club Focus – Manchester United – Retirement of van der Sar poses familiar problem for Ferguson

Manchester United’s veteran goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar has confirmed that he will be retiring from football this summer in order to spend more time with his family. His wife suffered a brain haemorrhage in December 2009 and this has influenced his decision to bow out, however he has also indicated that he wishes to quit before his form starts to suffer.

He said: “You have to ask if you can bring that top level of performance that you need at United. At the moment I am quite happy with my form and my achievements on the pitch. I just want to [leave] that on a high level.” Many United fans consider van der Sar one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s best buys and the true successor to Peter Schmeichel. The former Fulham player has a calming presence, is exceptionally good with his feet for a goalkeeper and is very rarely prone to erratic mistakes, all qualities that made the Dutchman a huge favourite among the Old Trafford faithful.

Schmeichel was a huge presence in goal for United and numerous replacements such as Roy Carroll, Fabian Barthez and Mark Bosnich were tried but failed until the arrival of van der Sar. Another period of such instability could be lethal in the hunt for trophies. But current back-up keeper Tomasz Kuszczak is confident that he can fill the Dutchman’s boots. “I want to show that I can take over from Edwin. For us young players, we have to be ready. I intend to do well all the time when I get a chance to play. That is what would give me a future at United,” said the Polish international.

However, he will have competition as Ferguson has already paid Aalesund for the 26-year-old Anders Lindegaard and it remains to be seen whether Kuszczak will ever be given the chance to prove that he can be No 1at Old Trafford. Indeed, although one goalkeeper has already arrived this season, rumours persist that David de Gea might also be on the move soon. Although only 20, the Atletico Madrid player has been in wonderful form and was named in Spain’s 30 man squad for the World Cup but just missed out on the final cut. Figures ranging between £10m to £18m have been mooted.

One potential worry for United fans would be the relative inexperience of all of the above candidates. At 40, van der Sar spend the majority of two decades in goal for major clubs such as Ajax and Juventus as well as being the Dutch first choice stopper. None of the potential replacements can boast a CV that is nearly as impressive. After the problems caused by the departure of ‘the Great Dane’, fans will be hoping United do not start the next season with only Kuszczak, Lindegaard and Ben Amos as options.

The policy of investing in youth with re-sale value which the club claims to have adopted will be tested this summer. With problems emerging between Juventus Coach Luigi Del Neri and Gianluigi Buffon, some might hope another ex-Juventus goalkeeper arrives at Old Trafford. Whatever the outcome, Manchester United and football at large will bid goodbye to a true gentleman of the game.

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