As the venerable Paul Scholes remains undecided as to whether his sainted, 36-year-old legs have another year at the top left in them, a fellow member of Manchester United’s veteran old guard has broken ranks and revealed that he intends to call time on his career at the end of the current season.
Upon the culmination of 21 years of unbridled professionalism and excellence, ‘keeper Edwin van der Sar has confirmed that he will hang up his gloves this summer.
Van der Sar had been toying with the decision since December 2009, when his wife Annemarie became seriously ill, though (despite several inconspicuous leaks from United’s coaching staff – including manager Sir Alex Ferguson) the man himself was reluctant to make a definitive call either way.
However, speaking via the website of his management company, Van der Sar confirmed his retirement plans earlier today:
“It is now time to pay attention to my family. I cannot really identify a time when [the decision to retire] 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, though my age played no role – I am 40-years-old, but I still feel fit.
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.”
A class act through and through , is our Edwin – and a damn fine goalkeeper as it happens, which makes replacing him betwixt the sticks at Old Trafford a particularly tricky job.
Ferguson has made no secret of the regret he still harbours over not going all-out to sign Van der Sar from Ajax in 1999 when long-standing incumbent Peter Schmeichel vacated the No. 1 shirt at Old Trafford in favour of a career-dwindling move to Sporting Lisbon – a deep-seated regret that will surely mean the prevalent parallels raised by the formers’ impending retirement are not going to be lost on the wily Scottish patriarch.
With United having to resort to fielding miscreants like John O’Shea, Rio Ferdinand and (worst of all) Massimo Taibbi in goal in the Great Dane’s wake, Ferguson now will presumably be hell-bent on making damn sure that he has a suitable successor lined up to step into Van der Sar’s gangly breach, as and when the time comes.
The gossip columns are routinely full of names supposedly fit to take on the outbound Dutchman’s mantle: Igor Akinfeev, Manuel Neuer, Maarten Stekelenburg, Hugo Lloris, Julio Cesar, etc..etc…, whilst United’s current stable of faithful understudies seem to be just that – understudies.
Current deputy Tomas Kuszczak is perfectly competent though hardly ‘stellar’ and, earlier in the month, United announced the £3.5 million signing of Anders Lindegaard from Aalesund – but it would appear that such a low-profile acquisition has failed to sate the pressing need for a convincing replacement to be bought in for ol’ reliable Van der Sar amongst the club’s support.
Which, I suppose, is testament to the quiet legacy he has built himself over the years.
Contrary to a myriad of point-missing accusations levelled at me constantly as a result of my day job, I’m not a United fan (nor do I support Ajax, Juventus or Fulham for that matter) but I am fairly adept at recognising true greatness when given 21 years to digest it properly.
So long Edwin, and thanks.