A resounding victory over Arsenal in the FA Cup with a largely experimental team went some way to erase the memory of our previous two outings whilst the u18s come from behind victory over Liverpool at Anfield added the champagne to what was already a good meal.
There was a real doom and gloom after consecutive defeats to Chelsea and Liverpool; Sir Alex’s FA charge, Nani’s injury at the hands (feet) of Jamie Carragher and the media blackout compounded this, so the events of the past 48 hours come as a much welcomed change the negativity.
Against Arsenal there were a number of positives; the team on paper was largely experimental yet we still triumphed, Rooney looked good, the decision to play the Da Silva twins as wingers paid off, Vidic and Smalling showed that if Rio’s injury problems don’t abate we won’t be in the wilderness without a map and the most obvious is that Valencia returned showing little effects of the injury that has seen him sidelined since last September.
But equally as pleasing was the remarkable display from Edwin van der Sar.
Selected as ‘Man of the Match’ for his performance, the 40 year old seemed to be teasing us. van der Sar seemed intent on letting us know that when May comes regardless of the outcome of the title race, whether we make it to Wembley and if we are lucky enough to get there and win, this would be his final season so we should enjoy him.
Getting down to stop Samir Nasri’s disguised near post shot, the save from Koscielny when the French defender had the goal at his mercy, Edwin was awesome.
ITV made a point of continually remarking that it was a testament to how well Arsenal played that van der Sar was man of the match but I disagree. If that was the case Vidic or Smalling could have got the award as they too closed the door in the face of Arsenal attacks numerous times but in the instance Arsenal were allowed to threaten the goal Edwin was more than up to the challenge from keeping them at bay, whether the threat be serious or minor.
After the game, Edwin confirmed our worst fears that he would indeed retire and when asked whether he could be convinced to extend his stay at Old Trafford he curtly replied ‘no’.
Gauging the response of fans, there isn’t a single soul that wants him to leave. Chants of ‘Fergie sign him up’ and ‘One More Year’ rang out around Old Trafford whilst on social networking sites like Twitter & Facebook supporters were quick to sing his praises and it appears the feeling is the same in the changing room too as Wayne Rooney confirmed that the players too had worked on trying to get him to stay one more year,
“The players are trying to persuade Edwin to stay on too. I was speaking to him in the shower afterwards but it is his decision and we have to respect it. He is such a great goalkeeper. Despite his age he is still the best keeper in the world.”
And it is with good reason too.
I don’t need to go into our storied history with goalkeepers, trying to replace Peter Schmeichel after he departed in 1999 was an exercise in futility until Edwin came along and finally filled the gap so now he is on his way out understandably there is a bit of panic. This is no slight to Tomasz Kuszczak or Anders Lindegaard, both are good keepers in their own right and whilst Kuszczak has been reliable and Lindegaard hasn’t been properly tested out, I personally don’t see them reaching the level of van der Sar but there is no shame in this as he has set an extremely high bar.
Playing between the sticks at United requires something. Many keepers think they have ‘it’ but being a good keeper here will only get you so far, you need to be extraordinary. We’ve had a few ‘good’ keepers and Kuszczak and Lindegaard are in that category but the likes of Schmeichel and van der Sar are show stoppers.
Peter Schmeichel enjoyed a successful spell at Brondy both domestically and in Europe before joining us whilst van der Sar’s pedigree is unquestionable in that he was already a proven winner having enjoyed much success with Ajax both domestically and in Europe before big game experience at Juventus and then Premier League experience at Fulham.
So you can understand why people are a bit sceptical about Lindegaard or Kuszczak becoming our #1.
We have been linked with tons of keepers so far and whilst the names are promising and there is someone out there that can come in and do the job you have to question if there is a person that can do it with Edwin’s class. I can’t sit here and lie to anybody, we all have eyes and see the same things. Edwin can make mistakes as we have seen this season with the flap against West Brom and spilling Suarez’s freekick against Liverpool but what we can all agree on is that these errors are rare. Edwin is usually a cool operator who inspires confidence in his back line, he is confident with the ball at his feet, can throw and can kick brilliantly with both of these attributes meaning he can set up counters for us as we saw against Villa for Rooney’s goal.
Whilst goalkeepers can have some of these components only the top ones have all of them and not all of the keepers we have been linked with are in or will ever be in the same category.
The virtues of having him in goal are recognised by all, Bert Van Marwijk tried his hardest to get him in goal for the Dutch in South Africa this past summer despite having a man touted to replace him at Old Trafford, Maarten Stekelenburg, available. Van Marwijk’s inability to get van der Sar in goal will inevitably leave Dutch fans asking ‘what if?’ but Van Marwijk is not alone as Sir Alex has undoubtedly tried to change Edwin’s mind too but like Van Marwijk is destined to fail.
Replacing Edwin will be a hard task and if our own struggles in the past aren’t enough to convince you, just ask the team that he impressed against on Saturday. Arsenal have struggled at the back with a succession of clowns since David Seaman hung up his gloves (although they appear to have found their man as Chesney looks a decent keeper despite being a massive twat). Whoever is drafted in will not only have the spectre of Schmeichel hanging over them but now too Edwin so good luck to that guy!
All in all it was a good weekend but Edwin’s performance then interview after will have put the slightest damper on it so here’s hoping a couple more talks from a nude soaped up Wayne Rooney (awful mental image I know) in the showers will do the job and get Edwin to change his mind about retirement!