It has been well documented in the past how United struggled for years to replace Peter Schmeichel.Mark Bosnich was the original named replacement and he proved to be a disappointment in an injury hit spell. Massimo Taibi started well with an impressive debut at Anfailed, but a blunder against Southampton and a disasterous game at Stamford Bridge finished his United career before it had ever really started. Tim Howard failed to cope with the pressure and Roy Carroll was only ever destined to be a number 2. The big money signing of Fabien Barthez proved successful for a season, but a loss of form and an increasing amount of mistakes meant he left with a dented reputation (although it is worth remembering how impressive he was in his first couple of seasons). Raymond van der Gouw impressed when given a run in the team but was never really a long term option. Eventually, and admittedly a few years too late, Ferguson signed Edwin van der Sar, and the number 1 jersey has been in very safe hands now for over 5 years.
Van der Sar impresses by making the complicated look easy. Where Schmeichel was known for his flying saves, his aggressive manner and his physical pressure, Van der Sar’s laid back approach and seemingly unflappable nature has made him the ideal goalkeeper for the current team. His laid back personality shines through in his play, and no matter how tense the occasion, he looks comfortable and relaxed in everything he does. Fans and players have confidence in him and the belief is there that when he is called upon he won’t fail to deliver. His kicking ability is that of an outfield player and shouldn’t be underestimated in how important that is for the team, he is an outlet for the defence when they are under pressure and also a good starting point for attacks.
The question is though, how good a keeper is Edwin van der Sar? 130 international caps, 22 years playing at the highest level and two European Cup triumphs is enough evidence to suggest he is one of the best. Ask any United fan however what their top 5 van der Sar memories are and they would struggle to fill the list (after mentioning the CL penalty save of course). Ask the same fan about their top 5 memories of Peter Schmeichel and they will reel off 5 without any trouble. Is this due to the Dutchman’s style of play, or was the great Dane just that bit greater? Either way, we have been privileged to watch two of the worlds best keepers play at Old Trafford in the past couple of decades. The search for a successor has well and truly begun.