Thursday, January 27, 2011

Edwin van der Sar retiring: The King is Dead

Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar will retire at season's end after six years with the Red Devils and fifteen more tending nets at the top level. He'll leave after capturing three Premiership titles, a League Cup and, vitally, the 2008 Champions' League with United - plus whatever Ferguson's mob achieve this year. In 2008-09 he went a remarkable 1311 League minutes without conceding, beating the previous world record.

Throughout a career spanning Ajax, Juventus, Fulham and United, he won trophies in the Netherlands, Italy and England. Alongside a UEFA Cup win and numerous domestic titles in his glory box sit two UEFA Champions' League trophies. The Dutchman can take pride in his role in the last UCL victory, saving the shootout's final penalty, stopping football's arch-villain Nicolas Anelka of Chelsea from equalizing. Internationally, he was the mainstay of the Netherlands national team for what seemed like aeons, retiring with an unsurpassed 130 caps for his homeland.

United have searched both actively and passively for the past four years for a suitable replacement; a familiar tune for United. After Danish icon Peter Schmeichel ended his United tenure, Sir Alex Ferguson went thoguh six first-team goalkeepers before setting on the Dutchman and it may be the same when replacing the replacement. Ben Foster was tried and sold to Birmingham while current backup Thomas Kuszczak has failed to really impress judges as being a capable first choice. Although the Red Devils recently signed Dane Anders Lindegaard from Aalesunds to serve as backup, pundits don't think he has what it takes to really be a first-class custodian. Most regularly linked with the job are Schalke 04's Manuel Neuer and David De Gea of Atletico Madrid while Lindegaard and Kuszczak are both eyeing the slot too.

Edwin van der Sar should now be regarded as a United great - an imposing, noble, leonine figure leading the Red Devil's miserly defence. The only debate now is where he ranks when compared with Schmeichel. Though very different 'keepers, both anchored United teams winning several titles and the highest honours of Europe. There's no reason to think van der Sar inferior but it may Schmeichel is remembered more fondly due to his longevity in the no.1 jersey; it's hardly van der Sar's fault he arrived at Old Trafford in his mid thirties. Fond memories will always accompany both players, but to choose between the two as United's Greatest would be a futile exercise: it should be 1 and 1A until hopefully Neuer or De Gea joins them on that same pedestal.

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