It was 31st of May 2000. After weeks of speculation, Manchester United had finally acquired the signature of Fabian Barthez. His job was replacing Manchester United’s Big Dane, Peter Schmeichel. Even before Barthez could convert the £7.8 million that United had paid for him, people began writing him as an ideal replacement for Schmeichel. However, he couldn’t do much to enhance his reputation as a shot stopper at United by repeatedly making errors and faulty judgments. His tenure of 4 years at Old Trafford seems somewhat better than his contemporaries. Nick Culkin, Paul Rachubka, Roy Carroll, Andy Goram, Massimo Taibi and Raimond van der Gouw gaurded the posts for just a few games before Sir Alex decided to continue his long search for a fitting Manchester United No 1.
His answer? None other than Edwin Van Der Sar.
After narrowly missing out on signing for Manchester United in 1999, Edwin plied his trade for Juventus for the next season, before being sold to Fulham. Van der Sar signed for Manchester United on 10 June 2005, for a reported fee of £2 million, although the exact transfer fee was undisclosed. Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson considers him the best goalkeeper to have played for the club since Peter Schmeichel. But what does it take to be Manchester United’s No ’1′? Why did it lead to 10 failures before the gaffer could finally trust the Dutchman with the posts? The pressure of bearing the Numero Uno jersey of United is undoubtedly high; handling the pressure AND coming out with the results is what seperates the best from the rest.
The standards set by Schmeichel were high, and Edwin lived upto every bit of expectations that were put on his shoulders. On 27 January 2009, Van der Sar helped Manchester United set a new club and Premier League record for consecutive clean sheets – the club’s 5–0 win over West Bromwich Albion meant that they had gone 11 games and 1,032 minutes without conceding a goal, beating the previous record of 10 matches and 1,025 minutes set by Petr Cech in the 2004–05 season. He then broke the overall English league record in the club’s following game four days later, beating the previous record of 1,103 minutes, set by Steve Death of Reading in 1979. Records speak for itself, and holding a record of that stature certainly defines the importance of Edwin’s tenure at Old Trafford. His departure had created a void in the goal-keeping department. United had the inconsistent yet unpredictable Ben Foster and Tomasz Kuszczak for cover, but they hadn’t done anything significant for earning the gaffer’s trust.
Sir Alex Ferguson had for long scouted young David de Gea, who at 18 was already a first choice keeper at Atletico Madrid. And finally on 29′th of July 2011, De Gea put pen to paper with United in a move estimated to be around £17m. United had already completed a deal with Aalesunds FK for the transfer of Anders Lindegaard in Jan 2011. Sir Alex Ferguson was later asked as to what was the motive behind signing two first class keepers, to which his reply was,” You need two first class keepers to replace Edwin Van der Sar”.
David De Gea had a shaky start to his United career, which he made up for later as the season progressed with some fine performances.
Lindegaard settled immediately as he kept 4 consecutive cleen sheets to mark his arrival. It’s nothing but the competition that makes it all the more tougher, either of the two will know that a small slip up might be a stepping stone for the other, and that’s exactly what Sir Alex wanted. De Gea and Lindegaard are both young in terms of goalkeeping experience and if they continue to keep up to the level of performance that they’re showing now, the United goalkeeping department can breathe a sigh of relief for a long time to come.