Still going strong

Edwin van der Sar has enjoyed huge success since joining the Red Devils, helping the club to three Barclays English Premier League titles and the 2008 UEFA Champions League. By Stephen Haigh.

It took Sir Alex Ferguson six years to find a goalkeeper worthy of succeeding Peter Schmeichel, but in 2005 the Scot found a more than capable replacement in Edwin van der Sar.

Van der Sar, 39, has enjoyed huge success since joining the Red Devils, helping the club to three Barclays English Premier League titles and the 2008 UEFA Champions League.

Indeed, the Dutchman was one of the star performers in the 2008 European Cup final, saving Nicolas Anelka’s spot-kick during a tense penalty shootout as Manchester United held its nerve to beat Chelsea in the Luzhniki Stadium.

That win in Moscow marked the second time in Van der Sar’s career that he had lifted European club football’s top prize.

“I don’t have any words for it,” he reflected after his spot-kick heroics against the Blues. “What can I say? It’s great. Nights like this are what you dream of. It’s been 13 years, a long time since I last won the competition and it feels fantastic, especially in the way we won it. It was the last penalty — saving it — it was unbelievable.”

Van der Sar started out at Ajax, making his debut for the Dutch giant in 1990 at the age of 20 before going on to make over 220 appearances for the club. He even joined the elite list of goalkeepers who have scored in competitive games, netting a penalty against De Graafschap.

Van der Sar won no fewer than 14 trophies during his time with Ajax, including the Champions League in 1994/95 and four Dutch Eredivisie titles.

Leaving Ajax in 1999, Van der Sar joined Juventus, becoming the first foreign player to play in goal for the Turin club. The emergence of Gianluigi Buffon, though, saw Van der Sar limited to just over 60 appearances during his two years in Italy.

A GBP7 million switch to Fulham on a four-year contract followed in 2001 in a deal that was seen as something of a coup for the London club.

It proved a shrewd piece of business as Van der Sar helped the Cottagers become established in the Barclays English Premier League — making over 120 appearances in the process — before Ferguson came calling in June 2005.

With United, Van der Sar has added the EPL title, the League Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup and another European Cup to his incredible trophy haul.

At international level, meanwhile, he also holds the record for being the highest capped player in Dutch history, having made 130 appearances for his country before retiring in 2008.

He represented Holland at four European Championships — in 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 — and two World Cups, in 1998 and 2006, after making his debut in June 1995.

Euro 2008 was supposed to signal the end of Van der Sar’s international career as he helped the Dutch beat the likes of France and Italy before exiting at the quarterfinal stages to Russia.

But injuries to Maarten Stekelenburg and Henk Timmer saw Van der Sar briefly return for two 2010 World Cup qualifiers against Iceland and Norway, keeping a clean sheet in both matches.

He may turn 40 in October and be at the end of his glittering career, but Van der Sar remains one of the best goalkeepers in world football.

Van der Sar has been forced to endure a difficult last few months after Annemarie, his wife, suffered a brain haemorrhage in December 2009. Manchester United placed the veteran goalkeeper on compassionate leave and Annemarie has fortunately since made a full recovery.

Van der Sar married Annemarie van Kesteren in May 2006 and the two have a son called Joe and a daughter named Lynn.

United has a sponsorship deal with Audi, so Van der Sar has an Audi S8 in his car collection, along with a BMW convertible 6.5.

FACTFILE Name: Edwin van der Sar Position: Goalkeeper Club: Manchester United D.O.B: 29/10/70 Holland caps: 130 Holland goals: 0 Holland debut: v Belarus, June 1995 Moment to remember

During the 2008/09 season, Van der Sar went a record-breaking 1,311 minutes without conceding a goal in the EPL.

Moment to forget

Playing for Juventus against Lazio, Van der Sar attempted to clear a shot from striker Marcelo Salas, only to slip and allow the ball to trickle past him into the net. Juve went on to finish second in Italy’s Serie A that season behind Lazio by a point.

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