So, now we stand at the brink. It is crunch time. Zero Hour approaches. Sir Alex Ferguson has a big decision to make. Nail-biting stuff.
On Thursday 27th January, Manchester United’s No.1, Edwin van der Sar announced he would finally hang up his gloves at the end of this season. During his six years at the club, he has helped take United to three back-to-back league titles, and win a League Cup, a Fifa Club World Cup and a Champions League trophy. His contribution has led Sir Alex to place him on a pedestal alongside Peter Schmeichel as one of the club’s best ever stoppers.
But now the time has come for Sir Alex to replace his revered keeper. Goalkeeper has been a problem position for United over the years – with several flapping flops coming in and out over the years. Many fans continue to remember the fiasco of Massimo Taibi, the mediocrity of Raimond van der Gouw and the talented if cocaine-addicted Aussie Mark Bosnich. Even good players like Fabien Barthez and Ben Foster were prone to howling mistakes that tainted their progress at the club. In the time between the legendary Peter Schmeichel and Edwin van der Sar, Sir Alex Ferguson signed no fewer than ten goalkeepers. In the current climate, they cannot afford to make the same mistakes.
It should be pointed out that, of course, Sir Alex already has a number of goalkeepers at the club. Firstly there is young Ben Amos, currently on loan at Oldham Athletic. At just 20 years old, he is too untried and wouldn’t be ready for a jump into the No.1 jersey. Next there is Tomasz Kuszczak, who has spent four years as a backup keeper at the club – several times stating his frustration at not being given a meaningful run in the first team. Kuszczak has shown that he is a talented player, but perhaps not enough to warrant the starting slot at a club the size of Manchester United.
And finally there is new signing Anders Lindegaard, signed from Norwegian club Aalesunds FK. In 2010 he was named Goalkeeper of the Year in both Norway and Denmark. When signed, it appeared that he was ostensibly being brought in as van der Sar’s replacement. However, United legend Peter Schmeichel has publicly stated he doesn’t believe the 26-year-old is ready for a regular spot at the club.
So, what is the alternative for Sir Alex? Simple. Use the money that he claims the Glazers have promised to make available and buy an established goalkeeping star.
Several names have been bandied about by the media, with Manchester United allegedly being interested in all of them. Will we see one of these men between the sticks at Manchester United next season?
The Dutchman would certainly be the most poetic of choices. He has followed in Edwin van der Sar’s footsteps by coming through Ajax’s youth system. He is now the club’s star player, filling the goalkeeping void that had remained since van der Sar himself left the club in 1999. Not only that, but he has inherited van der Sar’s position in the Dutch national team, and done a very successful job with it, helping take the Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup Final. At 28 years old, he is a top player in the prime of his career.
David de Gea
While Sir Alex has been very reluctant to put his faith in young goalkeepers, David de Gea is one of the hottest properties on the market at the moment. While he was primarily used as a backup to Atlético Madrid’s first-choice Sergio Asenjo, before the (almost as young) Spaniard suffered a back injury, his impressive form has led him to more prominence. At the time of writing this article, de Gea has made 18 league appearances for Atlético with 7 clean sheets this season. If United attempt to sign this young stopper, they can expect stiff competition from Europe’s other top clubs, but this could prove to be an investment in the next fifteen to twenty years of the club- an opportunity unlike any other.
The CSKA Moscow captain and Russian international has been long-touted as United’s replacement for van der Sar. Indeed, for a few years now, many football fans have expected to see him move to one of Europe’s top clubs. He was also rumoured to be on his way to Liverpool, when there was speculation over the future of Pepe Reina. It can only be a matter of time before we see the 24-year-old at a high-profile club, but will it be a Premiership club? And will it be United?
With other names floating around like Schalke #1 Manuel Neuer who impressed at the world cup alongside the likes of René Adler of Leverkusen and the Argentine Sergio Romero, United are somewhat spoiled for choice in terms of goalkeeping talent. The real question that remains is if and when Sir Alex Ferguson will make a move. Kuszczak, Lindegaard and Amos are not yet ready for the pressure that the No.1 shirt at Manchester United brings. With some of the world’s best forwards playing in the Premiership, United need a top star between the sticks that they can rely on, otherwise they risk being left behind by the pack.
They could always sign Pepe Reina. Liverpool don’t need him having signed renowned shot-stopper Luis Suarez in the January window!