Fergie’s ‘keepers: good, bad and ugly

June 27, 2011 Tags: Shorts 30 comments

David de Gea completed a medical in Manchester today ahead of a €20 million transfer but Sir Alex Ferguson has not always been successful when it comes to recruiting goalkeepers. From calamitous Jim Leighton, to ‘Two’ Andy Gorams, via Peter Schmeichel and Edwin van der Sar, Rant reviews ten of the best and worst Fergie ‘keepers.


  • Jim Leighton 1988-1991
    Scotsman Leighton joined from Ferguson’s old haunt at Aberdeen but failed to live up to the big reputation. The international was ignominiously dropped by Ferguson following a calamitous display during the 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace in the 1990 FA Cup Final.

  • Mark Bosnich 1989–1992, 1999–2001
    Cocaine loving Australian Bosnich spent two periods at Old Trafford, neither successful. First joining as a trainee in the late 1980s before leaving for Aston Villa, Bosnich then re-joined United at Chairman Martin Edward’s behest in 1999.

  • Les Sealey 1990–1991, 1993–1994
    Sealey came to prominence during the 1990 FA Cup Final replay, going on to ‘keep for the club during United’s successful Cup Winners’ Cup campaign the following season. Returned as an understudy to Schmeichel in 1993. Died in 2001

  • Peter Schmeichel 1992-1999
    Surely the best goalkeeper to have ever played for the club. Schmeichel played eight glorious seasons at Old Trafford, lifting the Champions League before semi-retiring to Portugal in summer 1999.

  • Massimo Taibi 1999–2000
    Italian Taibi joined United for £4.5 million following Schmeichel’s departure but played just five games for the club following a calamitous error against Southampton. The ‘keeper allowed a Matt Le Tissier shot through his legs and with that went his United career.

  • Fabien Barthez 2000–2004
    The French international joined a great expense and offered brilliance and errors in almost equal measure. Played nearly 150 games for the club before Ferguson lost patience and loaned the ‘keeper to Marseille.

  • Roy Carroll 2001-2005
    Ulsterman Carroll joined United as a promising youngster but failed to fulfil the potential during four inconsistent years at Old Trafford. Now playing in Denmark.

  • Andy Goram 2001
    Schizophrenic pie-eating Scotsman Goram inspired one of the finest terrace chant ever, arriving on an emergency loan in 2001, playing just two games for United.

  • Tim Howard 2003-2007
    Tourets Tim enjoyed a fine début season at Old Trafford, being voted into the PFA Team of the Year. But inconsistency and a loss of confidence damaged his promising start before being transferred to Everton in 2007.

  • Edwin van der Sar 2005-2011
    Arguably the second finest ‘keeper in United’s history. The Dutchman arrived at Old Trafford during a dark time for United’s ‘keeping department but has offered a calm authority in six years at Old Trafford. Should have joined in 1999.

  • David de Gea 2011-
    With the world at his feet, talented de Gea faces a critical first season at Old Trafford. Already one of the finest ‘keepers in the world but will face a unique pressure during his début campaign for the club.


captainhormone - June 27, 2011 Reply

i’m not reading all this now


i think i’ll “save” this for later..

thanks…and i’m here all week

Alfonso Bedoya - June 27, 2011 Reply

Foster should have made that list as well… another flop…

Part of the problem though, is the need for a keeper to brilliant… immediately… not easy, no matter how good you are… and unlike outfield players, who can be shit once in a while, and get away with it… when a keeper is shit, it usually costs the team points.

Personally I think we’ve had a couple keepers in Howard, and Foster who had the game, but needed a bit more time and coaching, and might have made the grade… the claim that playing for United might be too intense is valid, but there is no way to plan for that, unless you sign an experienced, established keeper from another big, high pressure post, like Real, Barca, Milan, etc… but then you run into the argument that those leagues are a lot less physical… keeper might fail here anyway… and besides, top keepers are gold dust… those teams don’t want to give up theirs.

United has been watching this kid for a long time… there is no excuses for him not being good enough… but… there is the unknowns… the pressure of playing for United, and following a giant like VDS… and coping with the more physical nature in the PL.

I have no doubt that De Gea has the game… I just hope Ferguson doesn’t bail out on him, “IF” he struggles at first, and makes a few blunders… even if they cost us a couple games…

Otherwise, we’ll be right back where we started.

eddie - June 27, 2011 Reply

With all due respect to Big Dane, I’d put Big Edwin ahead of him in my lits.

Spudiator - June 28, 2011 Reply

Interesting stuff. I’m a bit surprised that Goram got mentioned when, as you pointed out, he only played twice for United, and yet Raimond van der Gouw managed to play 60 times for the club and was an excellent backup-cum-first-choice when Bosnich and Taibi flopped, but wasn’t even acknowledged.

United Rant’s original returning eternal optimist!

Ed - June 28, 2011 Reply

Spud – my bad. I missed out Ben Foster too…. on Goram just couldn’t resist mentioning the two Andy Gorams chant.

Alfonso Bedoya - June 28, 2011 Reply

Commenter said:
With all due respect to Big Dane, I’d put Big Edwin ahead of him in my lits.

Naw… as good as VDS was, Big Pete was legendary… had it all… totally fearless, great shot stopper, excellent command of his area, marshalled his defense, and in my opinion, the best at 1 v 1s ever…

ian - June 28, 2011 Reply

More than any other position goalkeeping at this level is about confidence. If you lose it, your done for; there is nowhere to hide. Leighton, Bosnich, Barthez, Howard & Foster were all decent keepers, but United proved to be to much of a pressure cooker for them.

Spudiator - June 28, 2011 Reply

I don’t think the problem with Barthez was lack of confidence, quite the opposite if anything. He was too confident to the point of cockyness, and that was what cost him his place.

uncleknobheadforfucksake - June 28, 2011 Reply

we once played two friendlies at different venues at the same time and he played left wing

squigs - June 28, 2011 Reply

I have always thought EVDS was over rated at United, because he lasted so long (By United goalkeeping standards). Obviously he had mental strength in abundance and people assume he was another Schmeichel because of this. Technique wise he was nothing special, beaten by too many shots that he should be saving at this level.

Liam - June 28, 2011 Reply

Disagree, I’m sure you’re bothered by that btw. I reckon that I’d rank Edwin alongside Schmeichel if not slightly above. As for getting beat too often at top level, remember southamton? Twice I think!

triggs - June 28, 2011 Reply

Re Bosnich, did he actually fail – in a footballing sense?
My memory is that he was good during 99-00. Was it not more to do with him being a prick and a bad influence off the pitch – so Fergie bought Barthez in the summer of 2000? He failed to impress Fergie, but I don’t think he failed on the pitch – the way that Carroll, Howard, Foster and Taibi did.
In 2000 we won the league at a canter, but were beaten by Real in the CL. I seem to remember Bosnich having a good game at the Bernabeu and also in Tokyo when we won the Intercontinental Cup.

squigs - June 28, 2011 Reply

Barca, champions league final, beaten by Messi with a shot 25-30 yards out that was in the middle of the goal,

Beaten by Drogba in the 2nd leg of a champions league quarter final by a shot, at a tough angle at his near post.

Thats two in the last couple of months, there are a lot more. Not saying we won’t miss him as an organiser.

ltel - June 28, 2011 Reply

van der gow??
ricardo? must be a few more too.
as too all the people saying vds is better than the great dane, what age are you all?
you must have only sen clips of big pete.. he was better by miles

Ed - June 28, 2011 Reply

Itel – there’s Rachubka, Amos, Kuszczak, Foster, van der Gow, Ricardo, Coton as well. I didn’t say it was a comprehensive review!

Wilson - June 28, 2011 Reply

Left one the greatest keeper for united of all time, “John O’Shea”!!

ian - June 28, 2011 Reply

Bosnich was a very talented keeper, with wonderful hands. Eventually he became a bag of nerves & couldn’t kick the ball without threatening to do in his hamstring. Barthez was a showman, with a brilliant left foot; SAF put a stop to all his tricks & that destroyed him. Big Peter was one of the greatest keepers of all time; VDS was not in that league.

uncleknobheadforfucksake - June 28, 2011 Reply

schmiechel shouldve saved baslers freekick, and he fucked up for their equaliser in the group stage, he was crap that year

squigs - June 28, 2011 Reply

Yeah agree, one bad final year, I couldn’t disagree.

Spudiator - June 28, 2011 Reply

ltel said:
van der gow??
ricardo? must be a few more too.

To be fair I mentioned van der Gouw because he was arguably one of the best backup ‘keepers we’ve had at the club in recent years, never made a fuss about not playing regularly, was always dependable when he did play and wasn’t daunted by taking the first choice role when Bosnich proved himself too unreliable, as well as going on to become a part of the coaching team for a brief period before he left for West Ham. For all the impact Ricardo made at the club, he might as well never have turned up for all we cared!

shauno - June 29, 2011 Reply

De Gea confirmed £18.9m. Anyone else get the feeling that’s our last signing this summer?

ian - June 29, 2011 Reply

Van der Gouw might have been a good bloke but he was a very,very average keeper. Schmiechel realised in his last year he was past his peak & moved on. Age catches up on everybody, but not to acknowledge Peter as one of the greatest keepers ever is bizarre.

Czuk - June 29, 2011 Reply

van der Sar is the best ever. Before you say anything, suck my balls Alf you cocksmoker, you know i’m right.

redtoe58 - July 11, 2011 Reply

Not a chance V.D.S. at best is the nearest thing we have had to the Great Dane..Dont forget also that Schmiechel had no previous Prem league experience when he signed for us, Whereas V.D.S. knew exactly what was required and expected of him…For Andy Goram see; Paddy Roche probably the worst two keepers we have had, inc Taibi…

Alfonso Bedoya - June 29, 2011 Reply

What “I know” Chuck… is that you have no “balls”! Fans with “balls”, don’t switch allegiances just cause another team starts playing better football.

And I doubt very much, that there is one single Ranter that gives a shit what you have to say… about anything.

uncleknobheadforfucksake - June 29, 2011 Reply

hi czuk,

good to read your opinion

Bill - June 29, 2011 Reply

Schmeichel was better than Van Der Saar. Schmeichel could win big games on his own (ie Newcastle away in the mid 90s). Van Der Saar was a good organiser and made few mistakes but didn’t play many real blinders.

uncleknobheadforfucksake - June 29, 2011 Reply

thats obviously bollocks

captainhormone - June 29, 2011 Reply


captainhormone - June 29, 2011 Reply

Czuk said:
van der Sar is the best ever. Before you say anything, suck my balls Alf you cocksmoker, you know i’m right.

tbf, i find this hard to disagree with…good input as ever adam

Add your comment