Whilst Red Flag Flying High will be focusing on everyone’s favourite Mexican Javier Hernandez and United Religion on Captain Fantastic Nemanja Vidic, here at The Busby Way we have decided to tip our hat to a more senior gentleman as we look to decide on Manchester United’s ‘player of the year’.
It’s been a long season with the games coming thick and fast but I ask you to cast your mind back to August when the season started. Think of the game against Fulham. Remember? Good.
Now ignore Nani’s missed penalty or Brede Hageland’s late equaliseer, instead I ask you to remember an event that took place in the first half.
Following some good play by Fulham, Nigerian midfielder Dickson Etuhu found the ball at his feet with just Edwin van der Sar to beat, he would have brought his team level and with the goal at his mercy you would have thought it likely that he would do just that.
But then again it was Edwin van der Sar that stood between him and glory.
Etuhu tried to place the ball low and hard to van der Sar’s right but the big Dutch man, defying the odds, got down to parry the ball but such was the pace on the shot and the closeness of Etuhu that the ball again fell to the midfielder and with van der Sar still down it seemed Etuhu would finally put Fulham on level terms.
Edwin sat up and remarkably was able to extend his left arm almost telescopically to push Etuhu’s follow up over the bar, the goal remained intact.
I still remember my reaction from the moment, pure disbelief. How had he been able to keep us ahead when it seemed so certain Fulham would claw one back? I remember typing tweeting something, probably expletive laden, and saw a whole host of others doing the same.
That moment set the standard for Edwin’s season and thankfully he has rarely failed to maintain it.
Of course people will say that his flap cost us 2 points against West Brom and is the sole blemish on our home record but in response I look at his reaction. Things like that can derail a keeper as one mistake opens the door to others; Gomes at Spurs being a prime example but Edwin is of a different ilk and stomped out any chance of this by returning composed as ever in the following game against Stoke despite the off field distractions that seemed to dominate our preparation for the game.
Following the FA Cup 6th round tie against Arsenal it appeared the pundits finally began to sit up and take notice of how brilliant he has been. The man of the match showed he was more than deserving of the title with a stellar performance that saw him make remarkable saves from Nasri, who tried to disguise his intentions before aiming his shot at the Dutchman’s near post, as well as from Koscielny, who had the goal at his mercy, amongst others. In the post match interview he was asked whether he could be persuaded to stay for at least one more year but sadly he confirmed his mind has been made up and that he does intend to hang up his gloves.
In the aftermath of the game it came to light that Wayne Rooney had approached him whilst in the showers to try and get him to change his mind but to no avail. If a large, balding, naked Scouser approaches you whilst showering you’d have every right to be worried but not in this instance as Rooney only came to pay respect to a man that has been brilliant for us this season.
The Arsenal game is just one of numerous examples of his brilliance this season and how he as a player and his ability have aided our efforts, have you forgotten his assist for Wayne Rooney’s goal against Aston Villa back in February? His ability to play the game with his feet as well as influence the game with his hands are important to the football we play and should be one of the pre-requisites for anyone who hopes to fill the void his departure creates at the end of the season.
There is no place for sentiment in football. It is a harsh game and when you aren’t cutting it success demands that you do not maintain your place on merit. Dimitar Berbatov, despite being our top scorer, found himself out of the team in favour of Javier Hernandez as it benefitted the team but there has never been a case for this with Edwin as he has been as great for us today as he was on day 1. Consistently he has been a player we can fall back on this season hence the chants of ‘one more year’ that can constantly be heard both at Old Trafford and on the road.
Some will say that Peter Schmeichel will never be topped as our greatest ever goalkeeper, I’m not so sold on this as in his 6 years Edwin has done his utmost to usurp The Great Dane’s title and this season is no different. The final against Barcelona will be Edwin’s final bow, mirroring Schmeichel against Bayern Munich in 1999, so if he can leave with the gift he well and truly deserves to crown off his spell here he may begin to change more people’s minds.