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Who is Manchester United’s greatest goalkeeper? Alex Stepney, Peter Schmeichel, Edwin van der Sar, or David De Gea?

There is truly no position on the pitch quite like a goalkeeper. It is almost certainly the least rewarding position, any minuscule mistake is magnified, replayed and held against a reputation for weeks. A classy performance can unravel with just one lapse in concentration. Contrast that with a mistake outfield where a loose pass or a mistimed tackle is often lost in the chaos of the game.

Therefore, when a goalkeeper stands out above and beyond his teammates and picks up accolade after accolade it is a truly prestigious feat. So where does David De Gea rank amongst Manchester United’s greatest goalkeepers of all time?

Spoilt with the current riches of De Gea and Sergio Romero Manchester United have currently got probably the world best goalkeeper and arguably the best second choice goalkeeper in football. However, there hasn’t always been such a plethora of talent in the United shot stopping department. Rewind eighteen years and United recently crowned treble winners had a leader and world-class shot-stopper Peter Schmeichel depart for Portugal, I will look at his claim to the throne a little later.

What was to follow was six years of madness between the sticks at Old Trafford. Roy Carrol, Ricardo, Massimo Taibi and Mark Bosnich are all names that flattered to deceive at the Theatre of Dreams, more likely to be remembered for a calamity or blunder. Nevertheless, whilst United don’t always get it a right when choosing a number one, over the years there has been a remarkable display of goalkeeping class.

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First up in the debate is Alex Stepney a United legend, holder of 539 appearances and even two goals to his name. In a team known as the busby babes with Sir Bobby Charlton and George Best frightening the oppositions back line it was Stepney who held the fort. Renowned for his expert positioning Stepney he truly was a wonderful goalkeeper.

In total, he picked up a First Division title, FA Cup, and Second Division title and to top it off he was in goal on that memorable night in 1968 when Manchester United were crowned kings of Europe for the first time, Stepney stared that night stopping a vicious effort from the legend that was Eusebio.

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Next up in the debate is Edwin van der Sar a man who joined the club at 34 and perhaps for a goalkeeper that is there prime years. Van der Sar went on to complete six seasons at Old Trafford and became the oldest player to lift the premier league trophy at 40, he was brought in to put an end to the goalkeeping errors which had formulated after the departure of Schmeichel and he certainly did that, he was breath-taking at his best and defied the rules of age.

Altogether in his time at United, he collected four Premier League titles, a Football League Cup, and a European Cup parrying Nicholas Anelka’s spot-kick to clinch the title and cement himself in United folklore.

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Perhaps the most celebrated and popular goalkeeper in United’s history is the Great Dane, Peter Schmeichel. He had a presence like no other a real leader in one of the most successful English teams of all time. He was excellent in one on one situations and was a truly formidable shot-stopper. He was also part of the famed treble-winning side and collected five premier leagues, three FA Cups a Football League Cup and of course a Champions League being an integral member of the treble side.

“I don’t believe a better goalkeeper played the game. He is a giant figure in the history of Manchester United.”Sir Alex Ferguson

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The competition is fierce and have each set the standard for any goalkeeper at Manchester United. However, in David De Gea United have found another unbelievable talent and perhaps the best of the lot. Week in week out he produces mind-boggling stops and has decimated the end of season awards nights’ year upon year. Furthermore, after intense debate and comparisons, the past couple of seasons have cemented his claim as the best goalkeeper in the world.

At just 27 years old an age that is considered well below a keeper’s peak he already has an argument for United’s best ever keeper and if he stays for the long term adding a Champions League to his cabinet there will be few that could argue with that.

Written by Josh Keifer

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