With the news of Edwin van der Sar’s retirement confirmed, the pursuit of a first choice goalkeeper hots up for Manchester United and the sight of Sir Alex Ferguson at Sunday’s Old Firm cup clash only increased speculation that he’s eying up Scottish international, Allan McGregor. Aston Villa had been mentioned as a possible destination for McGregor, but with the Ibrox club in a dire financial situation, Fergie may be tempted to take a chance on a cut-price option rather than forking out substantial sums for Manuel Neuer or David de Gea.
McGregor’s profile is in keeping with what Fergie likes. Throughout his time at Old Trafford, his long-term first choice goalkeeper has tended to be in his late twenties or thirties and experienced – preferably with Champions League and international football under his belt. The Rangers custodian doesn’t have an abundance of either, but he has amassed a good deal of experience in the SPL and doing it under the glare of the Glasgow media will stand him in good stead for the scrutiny he’s likely to get at a club such as Manchester United. His haul of caps isn’t what it should be thanks mainly to disciplinary problems and the form of Craig Gordon, but he’s definitely vying for the starting spot with the Sunderland keeper so that should give you an idea of the kind of level he’s operating at.
It’s unlikely that Sir Alex came away from the game with anything conclusive. It was a decent game for McGregor – certainly better than the one Fraser Forster had for Celtic. He was blameless for Celtic’s two goals and showed good hands and a good command of his penalty area throughout. He made one absolutely stunning point-blank save in the second half. There will be those who argue he didn’t know a whole lot about it and he got the rub of the green, but at least he got himself in a position to take advantage of the good fortune.
Beyond this one game, McGregor has shown himself to be a talented goalkeeper. His reflexes are excellent and he’s very agile. Coming in at an even 6 foot, he’s lacking a bit in the way of stature, but it’s not something that has been exposed too often in the past. It would be tested to the extreme in the Premier League, but there’s no reason to think it will be a significant Achilles heel.
In fact the major concern about McGregor has nothing to do with his on-field ability. His fondness for a late-night tipple is thought to be a major concern for Rangers manager Walter Smith and the distractions of Manchester will most likely prove hard for a young man to resist. The cast of Hollyoaks and a string of aspiring glamour models may not be to everyone’s taste, but it has the potential to derail a promising career. In 2009 he was handed a lifetime ban from the Scottish team after a series of ‘breaches of team discipline’ culminating with a drinking session with Barry Ferguson and some ill-advised hand signals from the bench in protest at the reprimand.
Twelve months ago he was assaulted on the way home from Cillian Sheridan’s birthday party. Given the sectarian nature of Glasgow and the capacity for anyone with a few drinks on them to behave like a tit, we can’t lambast McGregor for being assaulted, but at the very least we can conclude he’s not the most adept at avoiding trouble. Sir Alex is renowned for his disciplinarian approach, but he does seem to have mellowed in his autumn years. Even allowing for their sublime talents, it’s hard to imagine the younger Ferguson tolerating some of the antics of Ronaldo, Nani and Rooney and just how much influence he can – or wants to – exert on McGregor’s social life remains to be seen.
He’s undoubtedly a real talent, but the baggage he comes with may have Fergie thinking twice.