In what could be a season defining period for United the Reds got off to the best possible start against Wigan, a terrific 4-0 away win will give the squad a huge confidence boost as they head into a cluster of tough fixtures. However match winners are not always forward players as showcased by our Dutch keeper on Saturday afternoon. With the scores deadlocked at 0-0 Edwin made a terrific block from Wigan’s Victor Moses who seemed certain to score, the save, according to assistant coach Mike Phelan gave the Reds belief after a positive opening period from Wigan. Then after Javier Hernandez had expertly put United in front Van Der Sar had to charge out of his goal once again to thrown himself, Schmeichel esc, at a James McCarthy shot. Without doubt Edwin saved United and provided a steady bed rock in which the Reds built their victory.
However, this has been a regular occurrence since Holland’s most capped player pulled on United’s number one shirt, different to Schmeichel, yet just as effective. Schmeichel favoured verbal blasts at his defenders to keep them on their toes whereas Edwin is calmness personified and I’m sure most United fans would concur with me when I say that you feel much more assured when Van Der Sar is in goal than when he isn’t.
In the 2008/09 season when United achieved a 1311 minute shutout one seasoned pundit (who shall remain nameless) tried to take some of the acclaim away from Van Der Sar and shift it on to the likes of Ferdinand and Vidic, now don’t get me wrong we have two of the best defenders in world football there but to belittle Edwin’s contribution in that run was, in my eyes, completely ignorant. Since the start 2008 Edwin has conceded on average 0.74 goals per game as opposed to when another keeper starts when United have conceded an average of 0.90 goals per game, this shows how Edwin’s relaxing and settling demeanour influences the players in front of him. The figures are even more profound when you focus on this season alone. United concede an average of 0.78 goals with Edwin compared to 1.22 without. These statistics only back up the claims from such esteemed figures as former United goalkeeper Alex Stepney who is at a loss why Edwin wants to retire. However we all know how much harder a player has to work to maintain their standards once they have hit thirty never mind forty, so everyone involved with United respects Edwin’s decision and thoughts have already turned to his replacement; but that’s for another day.
In the meantime Edwin still has a few months remaining at United and aside from his on the pitch duties it is a few more months’ worth of experience that he can pass on to understudies Tomasz Kuszczak and Anders Lindegaard which could prove invaluable if one of them is to succeed Edwin next season. More importantly though the Reds have now entered the run in and a record nineteenth league title is still very much on the cards but many big tests still await and United’s credentials as potential Champions will be tested in the coming weeks and months. However, Edwin Van Der Sar will provide that priceless know how and experience that will hopefully see the Reds through.