Goodbye, farewell, Edwin the gent

January 28, 2011 Tags: Opinion 34 comments

So Edwin van der Sar has confirmed what most supporters expected all along – the 40-year-old goalkeeper plans to retire this summer and spend more time with his family. The decision will surprise few of course – least of all the club – with Manchester United scouting the global market for a replacement this past year.

The stopper, whose wife suffered a stroke in 2009, said that he will play his last match when the season draws to a close in May. After nearly 800 games – 245 and counting for United – the ‘keeper will be remembered as one the most reliable and decorated in the modern game.

And with van der Sar’s passing into the football wilderness United will lose a great of the game: a fine talent, a consummate professional and a true gentleman.

The former Ajax, Juventus and Fulham stopper told his management team’s website today that after two decades in football his family comes first.

“It is now time to pay attention to my family,” said van der Sar.

“I cannot really identify a time when it happened. Let’s just say that it was playing on my mind from the moment Annemarie had her stroke.

“She has fought back from it. We decided on another year in England and thus to stay at Manchester United.

“But, once engaged in the season, the thought of saying goodbye started to gnaw a bit more emphatically.  I thought about stopping, maybe a year ago.

“It is a difficult process. After a defeat, I thought differently than after playing a few good games in a row.

“My age played no role. I am 40 years old but I still feel fit. And then the decision came suddenly. Do not ask me how or why, but suddenly you know. That was sufficient.

“The time has come to devote greater attention to my family – although they have never complained. Everyone in the family has indeed always had to focus on me, but we have also had a lot in return.”

The Dutchman’s arrival at Old Trafford in 2005 came six years too late of course. Ferguson’s attempt to sign van der Sar following Peter Schmeichel’s retirement in 1999 fell on deaf ears, with the stopper infamously refusing to renege on a verbal agreement with Juventus. van der Sar’s honour proved one of the costliest mistakes of Ferguson’s quarter century at the Old Trafford helm.

Instead, the Scot first signed Fabien Barthez, the erratic Frenchman whose career at United died on a series of calamitous mistakes. Others came and went too – Roy Carroll, Tim Howard, the risible Massimo Taibi, among many others.

Indeed, much as van der Sar’s contribution to three Premier League titles – potentially four come May – and the 2008 Champions League is central to United’s recent success, the Dutchman’s legacy is his stability through a period of uncertainty. The ‘keeper’s unflappable calmness, presence and authority steered United’s past a period of near terminal goalkeeping decay during the early noughties. United will surely miss him.

Over the past decade many stoppers can lay claim to be the world’s best – Iker Casillas, Petr Čech, Gianluigi Buffon, for example – and each has a strong case. But none could have done more for United than van der Sar. The right man, at the right time.

It is with sadness that Edwin hangs up his clubs; with regret that the Dutchman could not have joined the United family earlier. But United has also given much to the player, with the end coming after a glorious Indian summer.

“Which [trophy] doesn’t really matter, that’s the thing you aim for and I hope that materialises in the end,” added van der Sar, who finished with more than 120 caps for Holland.

“When I initially came here I was just happy to sign a two-year contract and try to win a league before I retired.

“Luckily I was able to achieve a little bit more than that and also prolong it for a little bit longer than two years.

“It would have been nice to have a few years longer here but that’s life – you don’t always get what you want at the right time. I am just happy that at least we got to come together and experience a good few years.

“It’s been nice, it’s been a great experience – even at my age – to be at a club as big as United. It’s just been a joy.”

But United, as Gary Neville once so accurately said, is a cynical club. Come the summer Ferguson will invest in a new ‘keeper to work alongside Anders Lindegaard, the Dane who joined a fortnight ago, and the team will inevitably move on.

Indeed, United has reportedly concluded months of search with a shortlist of three competing players as van der Sar’s top class replacement. It’s a high quality list too – compatriot Maarten Stekelenburg, German World Cup star Manuel Neuer, and the brilliant but callow Spaniard David De Gea.

Of the three Stekelenburg is the most experienced and the safe choice but, arguably, the least naturally talented. Meanwhile, Neuer is available although not necessarily affordable, with Schalke financially stable. Each will do a fine job at Old Trafford.

Yet De Gea is the romantic choice though. Just 20, and suffering a ‘difficult second season’ with Atlético de Madrid, De Gea has all the hallmarks of his erstwhile predecessor in the United net – calm under pressure, presence among men, genuine trust of his peers. He’s also the most talented.

In a summer of change, with Neville and Paul Scholes potentially heading out of Old Trafford too, the succession is now a decision of high importance.

Ferguson once missed out on van der Sar. Supporters and the club can only hope the Scot gets the right man this time.


Alfonso Bedoya - January 28, 2011 Reply

Keeper is such an important job… it would be great if we could find “THE MAN”, right away, and not go through the same shit we went through after Shmikes left.
Anyway… Edwin came… he stabilised… and marshalled one of the best defenses in England, maybe the world for the time he was here… top keeper… he’ll be well remembered.

“Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

danniitronix - January 28, 2011 Reply

Agree with Ed and what Alf said. Nuff said.

RedScot - January 28, 2011 Reply

The best thing for me outwith the “choices” for the future United Goalkeeper.I see running through the Edwin thread is a common feature LOYALTY.I watched him on MUTV on this announcement as we know words are cheap, to me he looked visibly emotionally.
He will be sadly missed a fantastic servant and model professional.
I would go for his fellow countryman, Stekelenburg.Simply because of his World cup performances and his pedigree.

Jay Shon - January 28, 2011 Reply

Great man, VDS – hopefully he will return as a goalkeeping coach sometime in the future.

Neuer won’t be that expensive – his contract is running out in 2012. He is currently mooted at about 15 mil euros mark – that will go down further in the close season. So arguably his transfer fee could be cheaper than De Gea’s. Honingstein of the Guardian believes he is more or less signed up by Bayern – although he caveats that there is some internatl doubt as to whether the Munich club truly needs Neuer. He is more Schmeichel than VDS – nice booming voice, great in the air, real physical presence and a bit touched in the head. He makes great instinctive saves but seems to also let in a few doozies. Fortunately Neuer doesn’t seem to have goalscoring ambitions. His best feature though is his distribution. He gets great distances with his goalkicks. As England found out the hard way this summer, Neuer can start mean counterattacks with his kicks.

It continues to amaze me that Adler isn’t being talked about as much as other GKs. He is more talented than Neuer – although Neuer seems to have gotten the number 1 berth on the back of strong WC. Adler is much more composed than Neuer; more “VDS.” He supports United and his contract runs out in 2012 – in addition to the very reasonable buy out clause he has. He will probably be the most expensive of the bunch, although not by much, but surely he is to be reckoned as a serious contender for Van Der Sar’s spot.

kramer - January 28, 2011 Reply

he’s been fantastic for us. was one of our most important players in his first 2 seasons and then built a great understanding with rio and vidic. will always be remembered.

in1voice - January 28, 2011 Reply

What a wonderful player and person he is. A real gentleman in a sometimes ungentlemanly game. He hasn’t said a single word wrong nor done anything stupid, despite his fame and high profile lifestyle.

Hope he suddenly changes his mind, like SAF did some years ago. Hoping…

Kings - January 28, 2011 Reply

I always said we should have pulled all the stops to get VDS the second Schmeichel announced his retirement in 1999. Still better late than never. Who knows how many more European Cups we would have won, had we got VDS back in 1999. We have been blessed with two greats of the game. It has to be Neur for me as his replacement, with Lindegaard getting a few games in next season too.

eddieTheRed - January 28, 2011 Reply

Good luck Ed and thanks for the memories!

Triggs - January 28, 2011 Reply

Excellent player for United and his save in Moscow is legendary. Bit of an unsung hero really.

Given the trouble caused by Schmikes’ departure, surely Fergie has his replacement well planned out.

The beauty of replacing VDS this summer is that none of the other big teams are looking for a keeper (bar possibly Bayern). De Gea seems like the real deal to me. There were reports that we’d triggered his buy out clause.

Ashish - January 28, 2011 Reply

VDS is a United legend and he will be missed.

As for his replacement,I’m having faith in Kusczak.I hope it doesn’t get shattered.

cartelmike - January 28, 2011 Reply

An absolute legend.
Agree with the other comments, absolutely and perhaps unfairly unsung as a hero.
Such a shame we didnt pounce when Fulham did

Odbpowell - January 28, 2011 Reply


And a rare breed in that he’s brilliant with the ball at his feet. Will be missed.

brianofnazareth - January 28, 2011 Reply

Let’s be honest though he is no Ben Foster!!

Ben Hulston - January 28, 2011 Reply

Agree with all the plaudits and superlatives in this article and threat about Edwin. A true legend.

My preference would be Akinfeev. Plays at a big club in Russia, has bags of talent, and I think is ready for a move to the proper big time.

mongoletsi - January 28, 2011 Reply

Bring back Packie Bonner!

mongoletsi - January 28, 2011 Reply

Wtf? I meant Andy Goram. Retard.

herbie simms - January 28, 2011 Reply

Carlos Queiroz has recommanded that United buy 22 year old Rui Patricio from Sporting Lisbon. Has made one appearence for Portugal so far. So many very good goalkeepers to choose from, should have no problem there. Its the other positions in the team that are of more concern and bringing in the right replacements for them.
Is Lindegaard not good enough? Then why did SAF buy this keeper? Are we still wasting money?

Triggs - January 28, 2011 Reply

No it’s Tommy K that’s not good enough. Lindegaard was bought in as the new no.2 with the potential to step up in a few years time.

If he’s anything like Ricardo I think we’ll pass thanks Carlos.

ian - January 28, 2011 Reply

Brilliant posts Ed & Jay. “Unflappable calmness, presence & authority”; yes he made the whole back five much stronger. Fantastic professional & a gentleman & adds far more to the team than his goalkeeping; not many of those around. I just feel there is something very special about De Gea, a bit like seeing the young Casillas, but in a different way. He has amazing composure for his age & is a tremendous athlete. Whatever he is saying he won’t stay at Atletico so this is our big chance. I do admit there is a risk, but sometimes, like Eric, you just have to trust your judgement. I would be very surprised if in 4 or 5 years time he is not the world’s best by a margin -a superstar; the potential for ‘added value’ might appeal to the Americans in terms of any fee. In terms of ‘pure goalkeeping’, Stekelenberg is a plodder in comparison. Why go for a second rate VDS, just because he is Dutch? I have seen very little of Adler, but it is clear he is desperate to come to OT, that kind of thing always weighs heavy with SAF, but it would not be the best reason. I would put my money on Adler.

uncleknobheadforfucksake - January 28, 2011 Reply

if only joe hart played for anyone but city

uncleknobheadforfucksake - January 28, 2011 Reply

wait joe hart can fuck off, blone surfer cunt, GET REINA lkhfaffingpinchbeckonelovefergieoutshitehousecuntsuckerfrankieboyleupthearseracistsohyeahandrygrayandrichardkeysareinnocent

brianofnazareth - January 28, 2011 Reply

uncleknobheadforfucksake said:


Triggs - January 28, 2011 Reply

On another topic…

Did a certain youth player escape jail for witness intimidation today?

vlad - January 28, 2011 Reply

Arsenal seems to have a far better Polish keeper than we.

Just in time i bought an ‘Edwin’ t-shirt for my wife.
What a great man and personality!

herbie simms - January 28, 2011 Reply

Lindegaard is 26 years old and De Gea is only 19 years old so were’s the logic of signing De Gea if you are looking for an experienced goalkeeper to replace Van de Sar? It would have made more sense to have bought either Reina, Stekelenburg or Neuer to replace Van de Sar and De Gea to replace Kuszczak being De Gea is very young. From what I understand, Lindegaard is not a better keeper than Kuszczak.

sheesh - January 28, 2011 Reply

United legend. I wish him and his family all the best.

Matthew Riley - January 29, 2011 Reply

Never mind new goal keeper lets get Fernando Torres this weekend get that Ronaldo money and invest it in a proven quality player for a change and offload Rooney in the summer……

Onkar - January 29, 2011 Reply

Nice article. But then I am also surprised by how minimal coverage Adler is getting. I just want to have him in the post. I mean, he is technically very strong, he was the number one for Germany before unfortunately loosing out of Injury and he is mad about united. What else you want as a prerequisite for joining UNited. I hope we will go for him.

Liam - January 29, 2011 Reply

What a true legend he is, the man who finally laid to rest the ghost of Peter Smheichel. Now it will be someones daunting tast to lay Edwins ghost to rest.

A little point regarding the article Ed. How is Edwins refusal to go back on a verbal aggreement with Juve the costliest “mistake” of SAFs reign? Surely Fergie can’t be blamed for Edwin being a man of integrity, a quality that is sadly missing in far too many top class players in the current era. One may argue we didnt get in fast enough but as for Edwin, a deal is a deal even if you havnt signed it yet. Just ask Dalglish about Roy Keane! He He!!

brianofnazareth - January 29, 2011 Reply

Unregistered User said:
On another topic…

Did a certain youth player escape jail for witness intimidation today?

What’s this?? give us a clue knobrot

Triggs - January 29, 2011 Reply

Here you go pissflaps…


I’m led to believe he only got a fine.

You surely know who it is.

Shantharam - January 29, 2011 Reply

Edwin has been nothing short of spectacular for us in the last few years. Replacing him will be very very difficult. There are a few names which are linked but i feel Maarten Stekelenburg should be the No 1 for United. He is a player very similar to Edwin and his performance in the world cup was brilliant. He is according to me the best of the lot. But having said that i would not be surprised if we bid for some one of younger blood. We do seem to go for players below 25 years and if the same criterion is applied, i think Manuel Neuer would be the first choice..

brianofnazareth - January 29, 2011 Reply

Unregistered User said:
Here you go pissflaps…


I’m led to believe he only got a fine.

You surely know who it is.

How do you know he’s one of ours dumb dumb…

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