Wines are supposed to get better with age, but anyone who’s taken something from the Tesco bargain bin and not drank it immediately may dispute that claim. The analogy only works when a bit of cash has been splashed and the contents weren’t complete and utter cat’s urine to begin with. That’s a very rambling way of talking about the future of Edwin van der Sar. In news that wasn’t really his to break, Eric Steele, goalkeeping coach at Manchester United has revealed that the Dutch goalkeeper intends to retire at the end of the season – preferably with an FA Cup winners’ medal in his pocket.
By the end of the month, Van der Sar will have reached his 40s and unless he’s invested his money in some sort of financial black hole like Liverpool FC, he should be set up for life and doesn’t need to continue. It’s understandable as to why he might want to call it a day, but based on the early evidence of the Premier League season, he is in genuinely top form. The players in front of him have rarely impressed in the Red Devil’s stuttering start to the season, but the stuttering would have been much more pronounced were it not for the contributions of Van der Sar. Rarely under Sir Alex Ferguson has the United defence been so porous and it’s taken a few very good saves from Van der Sar to help turn defeats into draws and keep United in front on the occasions when they’ve had a lead to protect.
When Fergie plucked him from Fulham for £2 million five years ago, it looked like he’d be a stop-gap solution until a better option came along, but the Indian summer of his career has been long and has the potential to continue for a few years yet. For a player more decorated than Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen’s living room, it’s difficult to pinpoint one period and identify it as being their best period, but rarely in his career can Van der Sar have played better. In fairness, he hasn’t always been flawless in the United goal (a couple of years ago he endured a very shaky patch), but over the last few months, he looks exceptionally sharp and his handling excellent. There’s been criticism aimed at him for not taking charge under the high ball often enough, but there isn’t a single goalkeeper in the world who always gets it right in this aspect of the game and he’s not especially weak in this department.
If Van der Sar does want to finish his career next summer, then it’s up to him, but in terms of performances, he should have no fears about continuing in the game. This particular vintage deserves to be ranked amongst the finest in Fergie’s collection.