Showing posts with label Edwin van der Sar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Edwin van der Sar. Show all posts

United's transfer woes and wins

Manchester United not only secured early appointment of Erik ten Hag on 22nd April before the final league match of Eredivisie on 15th May but the Dutchman started work immediately thereafter by watching the final league game of Reds against Crystal Palace on 22nd May. This was primarily due to the good officies of Edwin van der Sar and Ajax Amstredam. United secured the services of his assistant coach Mitchell van der Gaag to be his deputy at Old Trafford. It is quite natural for managers to have known and trusted backroom staff but also to get one player especially if he transmits the ideas and instructions of the manager on the pitch like Lisandro Martinez. United had done this in the past when Ron Atkinson signed Bryan Robson for a record British transfer fee to follow him from West Bromwich Albion.

Although officially this might be the business concluded with Ajax Amstredam but what transpired in the month of June during and after the Nations League was ungracious from United. It started with courting of 21 year old breakthrough centre-half for both Ajax and Dutch National team in Jurrien Timber. Ex-United manager and present manager of Dutch National Team Louis van Gaal termed his potential move as "not wise" arguing that he wants his players to get maximum game time ahead of first ever winter World Cup 2022 in Qatar. Timber decided against following his coach who progressed him from reserve team through to first team and helping him win the Marco van Basten Ajax Talent of the Year award for 2021-22 season.

While United were busy with Timber, Arsenal had an initial bid of 30 million Euro's submitted for his partner Lisandro Martinez in the heart of Ajax defense that had won two successive league titles. Martinez can play also play as defensive midfielder to keep in check the main opposing threat and win the ball back. He was Ajax's Player of the Year. United banged in to try to snatch what seemed like a bargain but Ajax stood firm. United then reportedly bid ~110 million for both Argentine Martinez and Brazilian winger Anthony together as per the Times. Ajax meanwhile as planned let Noussair Mazraoui (on free), Ryan Gravenberch (last year of contract) and Sebastien Haller (big fee of 31 million) leave. This raid from United would have ripped the team apart. Ajax indicated the price of the duo that United were not about to match thus Anthony was dropped.


Hounding did not stop there. Next was young striker Brian Brobbey an ex-Ajax academy graduate who had been transferred to RB Leipzig but brought back last January to play an important role with 7 goals. Usually employees sign Non-Disclosure Agreements on joining a company and stick to Non-Compete clause while leaving, this clearly was about to be breached and also tarnish the great legacy of Erik ten Hag at Ajax. Another Ajax target Sasa Kalajdzic was scouted. Clearly neither Brobbey nor Kalajdzic has the record nor consistency to lead the 20 times English Premier League champion's attacking front line but are players still developing their potential.  

As none of the Ajax targets fructified United pounched in the deal of young left-back from Eredivisie Tyrell Malacia after Olympique Lyon had agreed a fee of 13 million with PSV Eindhoven. United did not seem to mind to pay 2 million extra to get their first summer signing and first signing of Erik ten Hag era. This is the second deal where United have muscled in and clearly exposing their lack of transfer specialist among their midst while hiring another corporate manager to be assistant to Director of Football John Murtough. This was highlighted by United's recent pursuit of Brentford's head of recruitment Lee Dykes in vain.

Malacia (15 million), Eriksen (free) and Martinez (55 million) done the next focus will be on protracted saga of Frenkie de Jong. United have as per reports increased their initial fee from 65 to 75 million to cover for the deffered wages owed by Barcelona to the player while the total fee remains 85 million. If concluded it will take the total spending to 155 million. If Frenkie de Jong deal does not get done than ETH can be confident that United are fully behind him to secure the type of players he demands. United might be forced to make the best out of Anthony Martial for one more season while promoting Alejandro Garnacho. Free agents Dries Mertens, Andrea Belotti or Jamie Vardy (last year of contract) can be last gasp attempt to cover for absence of Mason Greenwood. United have earned 10 million from the sale of Andreas Pereira to Fulham and departure of six players has drastically reduced the wage bill. United remain hopeful of further offloading Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Phil Jones, Eric Bailly, Axel Tuanzebe, Alex Telles or Brandon Williams.

Erik ten Hag's debut match was a 4-0 thumping victory over our greatest rivals Liverpool in Bangkok, Thailand, Asia. Here is hoping Dutch Revolution mark-II gets the chance to be completed unlike mark-I under Louis van Gaal which was abruptly disbanded just as Rashford, Lingard, Martial after initial struggle settled nicely and were starting to turn things around. Trust the process.

De Gea is undoubtedly United's player of the decade

David de Gea will eclipse Manchester United's greatest ever goal keeper Peter Schmeichel's record of 398 appearances when the Red Devils take on Aston Villa at Villa Park today. He will become the second most capped goal keeper behind Alex Stepney whose tally is 539. de Gea having shined brilliantly by winning the player of the year awards four of five seasons between 2013-17 that has enabled United to retain their top 6 status to play in Europe despite having a very poor team in the post Sir Alex Ferguson era has made him a torchbearer much like Bryan Robson in the 1980's.

That game away at Arsenal with 14 saves was the zenith of this middle period where literally he saved the club from losing or drawing vital games and thereby always ensured United stay in the hunt for European places while making them punch above their weight consistently.



Manuel Neuer was the bookies favourite to don the gloves at Old Trafford especially after playing well against United in the Champions' League semi-final loss in 2011 when he was with Schalke. Ferguson did not want a repeat of mistakes following the retirement of Peter Schmeichel when he promoted or brought a string of under-achievers starting with Raimond van der Gouw, Mark Bosnich, Fabien Barthez, Roy Carroll and Tim Howard; others like Massimo Taibi, Any Goram (on loan) and Ricardo were brought to challenge them. In short the goal keeping position was a mess at United for five seasons considering Ferguson is the greatest manager of all time!

de Gea replaced the retiring Edwin van de Sar who had six trophy laden years that was a tough act to follow. He came to United aged only 20 after having won the UEFA Cup with Atletico Madrid. Sir Alex Ferguson persisted with signing the Spaniard after pulling out to sign Petr Cech at a similar age. At United, de Gea struggled with the physicality of the league initially as he himself at 20 years of age was still developing. United devised a programme to help him add muscle mass.

The first match of 2011-12 season was his league debut vs West Brom when let slip a soft goal after a barrage in the penalty box that Ferguson described as his 'welcome to England' in his autobiography, thankfully United won 2-1 to his rescue. He was even challenged by Anders Lindegaard to be the No.1. Weathering out those early hiccups he has emerged as the best shot stopper in the world over the last decade. He has won the league title under Ferguson, FA Cup under Louis van Gaal, UEFA Cup and League Cup under Jose Mourinho. Champions' League medal is the main prize missing from his trophy cabinet.

Sir Alex Ferguson on challenges facing a young keeper: "David couldn't speak the language and he had to learn to drive, another illustration of how young he was. It could never be easy for a goalkeeper coming to England from Continental Europe at 20 years of age." Gigi Buffon was 23 when he joined Juventus from Parma in 2001 and Petr Cech was 22 on joining Chelsea from Rennes in 2004.

He was in the running to be named Club Captain but his frank answer perhaps to questions about United's style of play cost him. This season Ashley Young started as the Captain and de Gea was in the reckoning until his reaction to a shock 1-0 loss to Newcastle on 6th October "The most difficult time since I’ve been here. I don’t know why, what is happening. Sorry to the fans.", made Solskjaer pick Harry Maguire instead. Not since Jack Mew immediately after first world war has United not had a goal keeper as Club Captain. It shows an utter lack of recognition to this vitally important position especially since United have had legends like Stepney, Schmeichel, van der Sar all having won the European Cup or Champions' League with the club.

Oft talked about criticism is that he does not come out to attack the ball floated out from a corner kick to command his penalty box. Since the retirement of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic he hasn't had a steady centre-back pairs patrolling the defense. This could now change with tall and steady Harry Maguire in front of him. He has a poor record of saving penalty kicks given that early on he saved a penalty from Robin van Persie in that 8-2 win over Arsenal. Taking cue from Sir Matt Busby helping Frank Swift during his playing career with City, Solskjaer being a former striker can help de Gea.
What next? This is his third phase where he is getting used to making fewer yet critical saves and perceptible change in levels of concentration required compared to the second phase of his United career where he was bombarded relentlessly by the opposition in a poor team. Can he break Alex Stepney's record? Certainly. There is more in common between the two: they both came to United at a young age and won trophies in last years of United's two greatest managers Busby and Ferguson while having to see barren, struggling years later on. Early thirties is considered golden period for goal keepers and de Gea only turns 30 this November. Stepney also had a great goal keeper as his understudy in Jimmy Rimmer who won European Cup twice first with United in 1968 and later with Aston Villa in 1982. Dean Henderson's rise at Sheffield United and dip in form of de Gea has let to lots of speculation.

The flattening of transfer market due to pandemic and lack of open positions at other leading European clubs like Madrid or PSG or Juventus coupled with David de Gea being highest earning player at United (discounting Alexis Sanchez who is loaned out) has ensured there is no clear cut answer. Schmeichel drawing on his immense knowledge made this assessment “David is our no.1 - he’s still a young lad, by the way. He could play on for another 10 years. Let’s back him. We should support what we have because we know what we have is really good.” Schmeichel tops with 180 clean sheets with one of the best defenses compared to 140 by de Gea in 398 games for United, while Edwin van de Sar has 135, Gary Bailey has 161 and Alex Stepney is at 175 at the end of their careers.

de Gea is the only United player to have won Sir Matt Busby player of the year award four times! "It's amazing to play for the club, the history, the fans, everything. It was hard in the beginning, but I believed in myself, I worked hard and I am proud of myself as well. I want to say thanks to everyone. I didn't expect to win this one. I have four, it's amazing for me and thanks again to everyone.”

Over the nine years David de Gea has become fans favourite and endears them further by active social media presence and interaction with fans especially the younger ones. Like the talisman Bryan Robson lifted the league title and retired, most fans believe it will be far easier for United to win back the English Premier League and perhaps Champions' League with David de Gea in goal. #DaveSaves need to considered in the same manner of superlatives as goals of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo through the last decade irrespective of United not challenging for Champions' League honours. David de Gea can become United's undisputed greatest keeper in this decade under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. For world football in general he has perhaps blazed a trail for young goal keepers to become mainstay of the first team.

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