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Manchester United Idols: Edwin van der Sar – the true heir to Schmeichel just six years later

When you ask any Manchester United supporter who their idol is, you will get a different response from each; George Best, Sir Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, Sir Alex Ferguson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes – the names will keep coming. The name Edwin van der Sar may not be one of the most obvious but he was an important player in his time at the club.

A player who replaced the unreplacable, so to speak. Back in 2005 when the Dutch goalkeeper signed for the Old Trafford club from Fulham, he effectively ended a period of regret for United having failed to find a goalkeeper of the same standard as Peter Schmeichel. The Dane was a great goalkeeper for United, earning the plaudits with his great saves, leadership, that goal he scored and for helping his country win the European Championships, which will be a big feat for him.

“Edwin [van der Sar] is the best goalkeeper we have had since Peter Schmeichel. He is a winner.

“He has brought with him a strength of character; he really looks after himself and he trains very well. 

“There are many players who, having achieved what he has done, want to take it easy. But he has a desire to carry on.

“Edwin’s professionalism and dedication to his job and the way he looks after himself has given him longevity in the game.

– Sir Alex Ferguson on Edwin van der Sar whilst playing for Manchester United.

Van der Sar was a successful player before signing for United, where more success would come along. The Dutch goalkeeper won the Eredivisie four times, the KNVB Cup three times, the Johan Cruyff Shield three times, the UEFA Champions League once, one UEFA Cup, one UEFA Super Cup, and one Intercontinental Cup – all whilst playing for Ajax. For Juventus, Van der Sar won the UEFA Intertoto Cup, winning it again with Fulham.

It was at United where his past glories would come back, seemingly ending his career at the top. United were heading into a very exciting period when the Dutchman arrived at the club, Schmeichel had left six years earlier and United failed to find that goalkeeper to full the void left by the Dane. Mark Bosnich, Fabien Barthez, Tim Howard, Roy Carroll – all had been tested. Even Massimo Taibi got a chance – and failed.

Edwin van der Sar was the guy to instil that confidence in – and he showed us all why. During his six-year stay at United, the Dutchman won four Premier League titles – matching the four title he won in the Netherlands – two League Cups, three FA Community Shields, one UEFA Champions League trophy, the second of his career – 11 years apart and a FIFA Club World Cup.

Eleven trophies in six years, maybe not the same heights he achieved with Ajax, but it was a good haul for United, especially Sir Alex Ferguson’s second Champions League trophy, the club’s third. Winning the FIFA Club World Cup was a great achievement too. There will be many memories of Van der Sar – the most memorable would have to be the UEFA Champions League final in Moscow in 2008 against Chelsea.

A 1-1 draw after extra time, goals scored by Cristiano Ronaldo and an equaliser from Frank Lampard at the end of the first half – then nothing, at least until penalties. Chances were created, saves were made but it was the penalty shootout that Van der Sar would be remembered for. Carlos Tevez took United’s first spot kick, finding the back of the net, Michael Ballack scoring too.

Michael Carrick putting United 2-1 up, Juliano Belletti sending the score to 2-2. Cristiano Ronaldo missing his – advantage Chelsea after Lampard put them 3-2 up. Owen Hargreaves made it 3-3, advantage still with Chelsea. Ashley Cole 4-3 to Chelsea and destined to lift the cup. Luis Nani 4-4 and all down to Chelsea’s final spot kick. John Terry. He ran, he slipped and missed his kick, still 4-4. United were still in it. Sudden death.

Anderson, bang 5-4. Saloman Kalou 5-5. Ryan Giggs 6-5. Then, up comes the ‘sulker’ Nicolas Anelka. Van der Sar saved it. Manchester United had won the Champions League again. It was a great night in club football, although not for Chelsea’s captain, leader, legend who would have been feeling sorry for himself, at least until 2012 when he saw his side inn the Champions League, suspended from the final, but picking up the trophy in full kit, which was a bit weird.

“Besides my family, my wife and kids and everything, I have two loves in my life.

“That’s Ajax, who gave me the opportunity to develop, they scouted me, they gave me the chance to shine in the world of football.

“And the last club of my career, also gave me a lot of attention, recognition and everything, developed even at a later stage.

“So of course I’d be interested, I’m interested in a position.

“But I need to learn a little more here [at Ajax], develop myself further and of course eventually let’s see what the future brings.

“Manchester United is a fantastic club, there’s a great following all over the world. Everybody wants to play for them and eventually, work for them.”

– Edwin van der Sar on working for Manchester United in the future.

The Dutchman retired from the game after leaving United at the end of the 2010/11 season with David De Gea replacing the legendary goalkeeper. Van der Sar played once for VV Noordwijk at amateur level before he headed back to Ajax where he took the role of managing director in 2012, working his way to chief executive officer in 2016. He was named the Best Goalkeeper in Europe in both 1995 and 2009, and UEFA Club Goalkeeper of the Year in 2009 and he will be remembered fondly in Manchester.

If a player ever gets to be mentioned in the same sentence as this prolific Dutch goalkeeper, he will have done well during his career. Van der Sar played 266 times for United in six seasons, 820 throughout his professional career, playing during 21 seasons professionally and scoring one single goal, for Ajax during the 1997/98 season. For the Netherlands, Van der Sar played 130 times in 14 years. When you think of world class goalkeepers, Edwin van der Sar just has to be one of them.

Written by John Walker

Edwin van der Sar sets Manchester United two targets for the remainder of the season

Former Manchester United goalkeeper and current chief executive officer for Ajax, Edwin van der Sar has given Ole Gunnar Solskjaer two challenges ahead of the run-in to the 2019/20 season. The Dutchman has tasked the Norwegian to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season and win the Emirates FA Cup.

United still have two chances to obtain Champions League football next season; finishing in the top four of the Premier League (although Manchester City’s ban from European football could ensure a top-five finish would be enough, and winning the UEFA Europa League, which will be played as a 12-day tournament in August.

The Dutchman, who played for Ajax, Juventus and Fulham before signing for United, stated that Solskjaer getting points on the board early, starting with a victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Friday evening in imperative to finishing the season, which has been poor at times, one a high, which will be a good start for next season, which will be important.

Recently, the former United goalkeeper, who was a great replacement for club legend Peter Schmeichel, albeit six years too late, was asked whether he though United and Solskjaer could manage his challenge, which he seemed to be largely positive about. United have everything in their hands, as long as they do things correctly. He said:

“The first thing to say is that I really hope United get off to a good start when the matches start again.

“I think that will be crucial for any team who want to be successful in the final part of the season – starting well.

“That is crucial to build momentum. This is a scenario that no team has ever been in before though, so it will be interesting to see how it affects things.

“I am really looking forward to watching football again and of course to watching United, who I especially enjoy watching play.

“As for winning the FA Cup – I hope so. I always hope my former club will be successful in every game they play!”

United are currently challenging Chelsea for a place in the top four of the Premier League and a win against Spurs on Friday could see them level on points with the London club with a greater goal difference, which before the match against Spurs is by two goals. Chelsea will face relegation-threatened Aston Villa on Sunday, with many hoping Villa do United a favour, which will be tough for them.

Manchester United seeking Edwin van der Sar for the director of football role – reports

Edwin van der Sar is reportedly on Manchester United wishlist in their search for a director of football. The former Netherlands goalkeeper was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer of 2005, becoming a big figure at the club, ending his career at the Old Trafford club with a good trophy haul. United signed David De Gea to replace the Dutchman.

The 48-year-old is currently the chief executive at Ajax in his native Netherlands and has gained a ‘glowing reputation’ for his work at the club. Van der Sar is also a highly-respected figure on the board of the European Club Association. It would be one of the best things to happen at the club in recent times if this was to pay off.

Over the past nine months or so, following the sacking of Jose Mourinho, it was reported that the clubs executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward would be seeking to appoint a director of football, having the time to do so before the summer transfer window, which was an important time for the club to launch yet another rebuilding project.

However, after reports of this happening, nothing materialised other than Darren Fletcher and Rio Ferdinand being linked, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer then being appointed as the permanent manager of the club in March and talk of a director of football being sidelined. Nicky Butt did step into a new role dealing with firstteam development in the academy.

Woodward is now of the suggestion that an experienced person in this role is needed in order to identify transfer targets for Solskjaer with his plans to rebuild the club, putting back on the road to glory by signing talented youth prospects rather than readymade superstars, which is something that has not worked recently.

The 48-year-old is aware that he is on United’s list to recruit for the role and may face a dilemma if his former club came calling. Ajax has just returned to an elite status in European football, having a £220 million budget following departures from the club in order to rebuild. It could be seen as a negative, him walking out on the club right now.

However, it could be seen as wanting to grow and take on a much bigger challenge, which is what this would be at United, especially taking control over transfer dealing from Woodward, if that is going to be part of this, which is why the club is in its current position, him not knowing the game all that well, or how to sign players that will fit into the team.

Van der Sar’s wife has suffered some health problems in the past, which has stopped him leaving the Netherlands. However, after the brain haemorrhage that Annemarie van der Sar suffered in 2009, she is in a much better condition now although it could still be too early for him to leave the country. United would need to test the water.

The former United goalkeeper had a role in the development of Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt and has some great contacts in the game, something that United would benefit from, especially in line with bettering the squad so they can contend with the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Arsenal.

Trouble at the back – From Peter Schmeichel to Edwin van der Sar

The last season of Peter Schmeichel with Manchester United could not have been any more symbolic of the legacy he was leaving behind. United won the 1998-99 FA Premier League, the FA Cup, and the UEFA Champions League, not only completing the treble but also writing in bold letters the kind of quality United was expecting from anyone who was going to inherit Schmeichel’s gloves. It was not going to be easy and easy, it wasn’t.

When Mark Bosnich was signed in 1999 as a successor to one of the greatest United goalkeepers, it was going to be his second time between the sticks in United colours, having already been part of the squad from 1988-1991. Having been highly successful for Aston Villa, the fans at Old Trafford were pinning a lot of hopes on him. But his second spell, even though brought success for the first team in the form of the Premier League and the Intercontinental Cup, did not do much wonder to his own career.

He was not exactly on good terms with the manager which was evident when Ferguson called him a “terrible professional” in his autobiography. After being the first choice goalkeeper for one year he was sidelined by the coming of the French international, Fabien Barthez and Bosnich eventually moved to Chelsea in 2001, after making 35 appearances for the Red Devils.

Raimond van der Gouw was at the club since 1996. He had arrived as a replacement for Tony Coton and had patiently played the second role to Peter Schmeichel till the arrival of Mark Bosnich. But even in that season, he was far from being the first choice goalkeeper. He had started the match only on 11 occasions as compared to Bosnich’s 22 in United’s title-winning campaign. The arrival of Barthez made the competition tougher than it already was. Having made only two substitute appearances in 2001/02 season, he moved to West Ham United in June 2002.

One can either look down and mock the shortest Premier League career ever or perhaps be curious about the £100,000 that was spent on Nick Culkin. His story is a testament to the fact that patience is not always good and yet, one cannot blame him for not leaving the United ranks during one of their most glorious runs ever, in hope of a place that was not to be. He made just one appearance during his five years at United, if it could be said so. That one appearance came against Arsenal and lasted for just two seconds, what with him having the last kick of the match and his only kick in United colours.

Culkin’s move to Queens Park Rangers was triggered by the arrival of Massimo Taibi. The Italian was bought for £4.5 million from Venezia in 1999, only to make four appearances during his time at United before returning to Italy in January 2000. Taibi’s career at United, if discussed at all, is synonymous with his gaffes against Liverpool and Southampton. While against the former, he went on to win the Man of the Match award, having made many saves after that unfortunate moment but for the latter, he was dubbed as “The Blind Venetian” by a newspaper. A 5-0 defeat at the hands of Chelsea practically ended his career at Old Trafford.

Paul Rachubka, in spite of being a Manchester United Academy graduate, failed to cement his place in the first team. The American made just a single Premier League appearance, as he was first loaned out to Royal Antwerp and then to Oldham Athletic before finally moving to Charlton Athletic in 2002. He is currently associated with Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League.

Fabien Barthez, having won the World Cup and the Euros, seemed to be the permanent answer to the vacancy that was left behind by Schmeichel. He joined the Red Devils for £7.8 million in 2000 and went on to make 139 appearances for the club before returning to France. He was mostly known for his antics on the pitch and had become a crowd favourite during a phenomenal first season with the club in which United went on to win the FA Premier League for the third time in a row.

When Laurent Blanc joined United in 2001, the Barthez-Blanc head-kissing ritual had become a norm during the Champions League matches that season. One of Barthez’s antics included playing mind games by refusing to stand between the sticks during penalty kicks which resulted in a loss of concentration of the kick-taker and ensuing misses as had happened with Muzzy Izzet of Leicester City in November 2001.

Things began to go downhill when the same antics he was popular for began to hit back at him in the form of unnecessary goals in high-profile matches. The 2001/02 season marked the beginning of his end at United, even though he seemed to come back to form in the second half of the season after having a disastrous first half. Even though United won the 2002-03 Premier League, but it also implied the exit time for Barthez as he was blamed for the Champions League exit at the hands of Real Madrid.

Sir Alex had lost his patience with the Frenchman and Roy Carroll took guard for the final three games of the season. He was loaned out to Marseille during the 2003-04 season before finally moving to the same club in the next season.

‘F*** off! I have got a pub to run and goats to feed’, was reportedly Andy Goram’s response to Sir Alex’s phone call in March 2001, presuming it was an old friend pulling out a trick on him. Sir Alex had to call him again to convince him about the genuineness of the offer. He was being seen as a short-term solution due to the injury to both Barthez and van der Gouw. He had all but hung up his gloves, what with having opened a bar and having bought some livestock, when the offer from United came knocking at his doors. He made just two appearances for the club during his brief loan period.

Roy Carroll played 72 games for United after arriving from Wigan in July 2001 for an undisclosed sum. Even after getting a considerable number of starts for the team, he is most famous for his odd mishaps. “The goal that never was” against Tottenham Hotspur even though did not cost United the match, surely put question marks against his place in the United ranks. And then the blunder against Milan, which resulted in a 1-0 defeat turned that question mark into a full stop, as far as getting starts at United was concerned. Barthez’s presence during 2002-03 and Tim Howard’s arrival in 2003-04 had already made it difficult for him to start for United and was eventually released by the club upon the expiry of his contract in May 2005.

Ricardo’s debut in the Manchester United colours was against Blackburn in 2003 which is synonymous to his conceded penalty even before his first touch in the game. If that was unfortunate for the £1.5 million purchase from Real Valladolid, then the 25-yard kick which sailed over his head and the conceded penalty by him which resulted in a 3-0 defeat against Maccabi Haifa, all but marked his end at the club. His return after the loan period at Racing was not met with many starts for Manchester United. He finally moved to Osasuna in 2005 upon the arrival of Tim Howard, which pretty much signalled no more time between the sticks for him in United colours.

Tim Howard was signed in the middle of the 2003 MLS season for $4 million and went on to make 77 appearances for the club before he was loaned out to Everton before the 2006-07 season. He had a good start at the club and had some brilliant performances against Bolton Wanderers and Manchester City, including a decisive penalty save against Arsenal in the Community Shield. What left him shattered was the 2004 Champions League exit against Mourinho’s Porto, wherein he spilt a last-minute free kick resulting into the winning goal.

This was the very match Mourinho was referring to with his  “nothing new for the club” comment,  in the press conference after this year’s Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla. Embarrassing? Yes. Even more so for the then United goalkeeper who never really regained his form while at the club. Howard’s second season was mostly marked by alternate strings of poor performances by him and by Carroll. Both his competitors at the club, Ricardo, and Carroll, were then released by the club in summer 2005. But soon after, a transfer from Fulham made the back-end a safe place again for Manchester United. That translated into Howard’s exit from the club in 2006.

It was Edwin van der Sar, the tall Dutch goalkeeper, who had come from Fulham to put an end to United’s search for a permanent answer to Schmeichel’s absence. The rest is history.

Written by Arijit Gupta

City and United are dominating in the Premier League said Edwin van der Sar

Manchester United legend Edwin van der Sar believes the City of Manchester is taking the Premier League by storm. In the league currently, Manchester City sit at the top with 16 points and a +19 goal difference with United sitting in second place with the same amount of points, a lower goal difference of +15. Both teams have done well in the matches played in the league this season, United beating West Ham United, Swansea City and Everton with 4-0 scorelines and City beating Liverpool and Crystal Palace with 5-0 scorelines, Watford falling to a 6-0 defeat. The goals seem to be with both clubs this season, which could suggest the Premier League title could be heading back to Manchester after a three-season gap with Chelsea winning twice and Leicester City in between.

Van der Sar, now 46, is the chief executive at Ajax, the team United beat in the UEFA Europa League final in May, also a team he had played for during his career before heading to Juventus, Fulham, Manchester United before ending his career at VV Noordwijk. The legendary goalkeeper has been keeping a keen eye o the English top flight this season. The Dutchman has been impressed by United, his former club, especially for the fact they seem to have turned a corner after the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, but it is City and Pep Guardiola who the former player reserved special praise for. The Sun reported Van der Sar as saying:

“City and United have both taken the lead in the Premier League, they are dominating.

“Because of my past, I am always looking at what is going on in football in Manchester and, obviously, I have more to do with the Reds than the Blues.

“But I recently saw what Pep’s team is capable of at European level, when he played in the Netherlands.

“They have both made enormous investments again and that makes the difference.

“With one club, the investments are being done on a commercial basis, the other club have had a bit of help in different ways.”

City and United are both level having 16 points at the top of the league, as previously mentioned, but it is the goalscoring dominance of City which has the bitter blues as the favourites to win the league at this moment in time. Before both teams played on Saturday, there was no difference between City and United, with the former sitting at the top of the league, alphabetical order sending City to the top. United 1-0 victory over Southampton kept them in line with City, but Guardiola’s sides 5-0 humiliation over Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace was enough to send his side clear at the top with four goals separating the two sides.

There are still 33 matches to be played in the Premier League this season, so it is a bit early to judge who is going to win the league, but based on the early starts, both City and United look set to challenge, if not win the league, either team could do it right now. The likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur have not had the best of starts, which could suggest that both City and United could pull away from last seasons to six rivals, but Chelsea, sitting in third place after their own big win this weekend could still become part of the challenge with Antonio Conte’s side looking to retain the title they won in May.

copyright: JW