Article by Evan Yore
Manchester United’s goalkeeping issues have become something of a talking point in the past year or so. While the Dutchman Edwin Van Der Sar has come in and been arguably the clubs finest keeper since the Danish legend Peter Schmeichel, the current Manchester United first choice is 39, and while goalkeepers tend to have a longer Premier League lifespan than outfield players, it is certainly a pertinent point to question what the long term solution will be at Old Trafford in terms of finding Van Der Sar’s replacement for the future.
Sir Alex Ferguson has always had issues with goalkeepers. From dropping Jim Leighton in the 1990 FA Cup final, to finding a long term replacement for Peter Schmeichel, with a long list abortive attempts with the likes of Mark Bosnich, Tim Howard, Roy Carroll and most disastrously of all, Massimo Taibi proving that the goalkeeper jersey at Old Trafford has often been the hardest to fill.
Since signing Van Der Sar from Fulham in June 2005, the Dutchman has added a degree of stability to the United rearguard and has firmly established himself as the first choice. This has resulted in quality young keepers like Thomas Kuszczak and Ben Foster being denied the first team soccer they require in order to develop their potential fully. This lack of action has manifested itself in both back up goalkeepers failing to shine when given a chance by Sir Alex Ferguson during the periods when Van Der Sar has been out with injury.
So, when Sir Alex said today that he felt that Van Der Sar’s long term replacement was ‘already at Old Trafford’, does he really fly in the face of many Manchester United fans opinions that neither Foster or Kuzsczak are good enough to be considered a worthy successor to Van Der Sar or even just a first team regular, or does he have someone else in mind? Let’s look at some of the names that United have been linked with in the past few months to solve their goalkeeping dilemma.
1. David James (Portsmouth): Any move for James seems highly unlikely. The England keeper reportedly wanted out at Portsmouth and United were rumoured to be in for him. However James is the same age as Van Der Sar and it is hard to argue that he is any better. A stop gap at best.
2. Manuel Neuer (Schalke 04): The German keeper has impressed hugely in recent seasons, earning a national team call up. Widely regarded as one of the best young keepers in Europe, Neuer could well be a legitimate target. Unfortunately for United, Bayern Munich are also said to be keen on the player and the player himself has expressed a desire to remain in Germany for the time being.
3. Julio Cesar (Inter Milan): Isn’t it odd how some players are linked with clubs when talk of a new contract is bandied about. Julio Cesar was reportedly head hunted by Manchester United until, miracle of miracles, a lengthy and lucrative new contract was offered to him by Jose Mourinho at Inter. Cesar is going nowhere for now.
4. Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow): There seems to be more legitimacy with the news of interest in Akinfeev. He impressed all with his performances in the Champions League against United, but his clubs £25m asking price may well be frightening potential suitors off plus Manchester United reportedly face interest from Tottenham for the player.
Who is the long term solution at Old Trafford? My money is on Ferguson keeping faith with Foster for the time being, but if he falters, expect a renewed effort to land Akinfeev, possibly in January.
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