Question: What do Mark Bosnich, Massimo Taibi, Raimond van der Gouw, Roy Carroll and Ricardo all have in common?
Answer: They have all tried and failed as Manchester United goalkeepers
It is not often these days that goalkeepers come to be mentioned in the same breath as the great Peter Schmeichel, but since moving to Old Trafford in 2005, Edwin Van der Sar’s calmness, experience and authority has played an integral role in Manchester United successes in the Barclays Premier League, UEFA Champions League and FA Cup – elevating him to a United goalkeeping legend. Whilst his carefully considered decision to retire comes as a huge blow, that despite the veteran currently playing at the top of his game, and once again leaves Sir Alex Ferguson looking for a replacement for an established goalkeeper. One thing though is for certain: Ferguson is not short of options.
Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax)
Having spent his entire career at Dutch giants Ajax, where Van der Sar began his career, he has gone on to establish himself as the club’s number one goalkeeper and enjoying considerable success in the process, most notably winning the Dutch Super Cup four times. Since being selected by Bert van Marwijk in 2010, he has become a mainstay in the Dutch National Team which reached the World Cup Final in South Africa last year. Named Dutch Goalkeeper of the Year in 2009 and at the age of 28, he brings with him European and International experience. With his contract due to expire in June 2012, he could be seen as a relatively cheap yet excellent replacement.
Manuel Neuer (Schalke 04)
Having burst onto the scene and excelling with the German National Team at last year’s World Cup, following his success with the U21s at the 2009 European Football Championships, Neuer is a serious contender. He is a commanding figure in the six-yard box which is testament to his maturity and his sense of anticipation is first-class. Good with one on ones, due in no small part to his youthful exuberance, and with an excellent eye for distributing the ball, it is no wonder that big European clubs are sniffing around this hugely talented young German goalkeeper.
Hugo Lloris (Olympique Lyonnais)
Anyone who watched the first-choice French National goalkeeper in action against Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League this week will know exactly what he is capable of. A combination of stunning reflexes and a great handling of the ball are his stand out attributes. At the age of 24, he has still has a long career ahead of him however the potential stumbling block could be his valuation around the £25,000,000 mark. Manchester United have a history of being scared off by Lyon’s valuation of their players as seen most notably with the case of the Chelsea midfielder, Michael Essien.
David de Gea (Atlético Madrid)
Like Neuer, de Gea is one of the most promising goalkeepers emerging in Europe. Having spent much of last season playing second fiddle to another promising Spanish goalkeeper at Atlético Madrid, Sergio Asenjo, de Gea took his chance following some costly mistakes by Asenjo to finish last season as the number one, including a victorious appearance in the UEFA Europa League Final against Fulham. His solid performances landed him a place in Spanish National Coach Vicente del Bosque’s provisional 30-man World Cup squad but he failed to make the cut.
Pepe Reina (Liverpool)
One move that would spark plenty of controversy and increase that intense rivalry between the two just a little bit more! Since his move to Merseyside from Villarreal in 2005, Reina has excelled in the Barclays Premier League, earning plaudits from many quarters. His kicking and general positioning is brilliant although his decision making has sometimes been called in question. For many years he has had to be content with warming the National Team bench behind Iker Casillas however with European Football at club level looking increasingly unlikely next season, could he be next to follow Torres out of the Anfield door?
Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow)
Undoubtedly one of the gems in the Russian game! Fast approaching 50 appearances for the Russian National Team at the age of just 24, Akinfeev has slowly built a great reputation for himself. He has shown to have great levels of concentration, a key attribute for any goalkeeper, as well as great command of kicking and handling of the ball. He is sometimes too quick to come off his goal line and has a tendency to struggle in aerial battles in the box. Nonetheless, he was wonderful against United in the Group Stages of the UEFA Champions League last season and a thoroughly underrated goalkeeping sensation.
Júlio César (Internazionale)
It is always difficult to step into the shoes of great goalkeepers but that is exactly what César has done. He took over from Internazionale goalkeeping legend Francesco Toldo in 2005 following his move from Brazilian side Flamengo and has not looked back since, cementing his position between the sticks and winning Seria A Goalkeeper of the Year for the last two consecutive seasons. He had to wait until 2007 to become Brazil’s first-choice goalkeeper, following the retirement of Dida, fending off competition from, amongst others, Tottenham’s Heurelho Gomes. He has great anticipation, aerial ability and command of his area however it’s unlikely that his counterpart and manager Leonardo will want to part with his prized asset.
Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus)
A name that has been bounded about as a possible Manchester United goalkeeper in years gone by; Buffon is truly one of World Football’s superstars. He is still to date the world’s most expensive goalkeeper, with Juventus paying a cool £43,500,000 for his services from Parma back in 2001/2002. Despite being the eldest, aged 33, of the options, he undoubtedly boasts a tremendous deal of quality around the six-yard box. He has won a countless number of individual as well as team awards, most notably the 2006 FIFA World Cup however his age and desire to finish his career in Italy makes a move to United unrealistic.
Allan McGregor (Rangers)
A name mostly familiar to football fans across Scotland, Rangers’ longest serving current player has turned in some eye-catching performances over recent seasons for the Glasgow club. At 29, McGregor will believe that if he is to make a switch to a Barclays Premier League Club, then the time is fast approaching. Whilst some will point to the lack of real quality, especially in the attacking department, in the Scottish Premier League as a reason for McGregor standing out, the Scotsman has shown himself to be athletic and composed, one of the reason why, despite being banned by the Scottish FA for participating in a drinking session before a World Cup qualification game, he has been recalled by manager Craig Levein to the Scotland National Team Setup.
Guillermo Ochoa (Club de Fútbol América)
An outsider for the position of United’s Number One Goalkeeper is the relatively unheard of Ochoa. Those who have been monitoring his progress over recent years will be acutely aware of his potential. He has already has a trial period at Fulham; however his parent club and Mark Hughes’ representatives were unable to reach an agreement over the transfer fee. Nonetheless, the possibility of signing the Mexican International Goalkeeper for free at the end of the season, given that he will be out of contract, is an enticing proposition for both United and rivals Arsenal who themselves have had a long-standing interest in Ochoa.
Whilst Danish goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard has recently been brought in to provide competition alongside Polish International Tomasz Kuszczak, the general consensus is that neither is considered as a long-term replacement for Van der Sar. However, with a track record of failed goalkeepers coming and going through the revolving door at Old Trafford, the small blot on Ferguson’s otherwise immaculate Curriculum Vitae, he’ll be making absolutely sure that this time he lets the right one in.