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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.

copyright: JW