United - Van der Sar's Replacement?
Reina, Neuer, Buffon, Lloris, Akinfeev or Stekelenburg?
At 40 years old, this would appear to be Edwin Van Der Sar's last season as a player at Manchester United, having established himself as the best goalkeeper since Peter Schmeichel's departure.
Inevitably, attention will turn to who is going to replace the Dutch keeper, who's been a brilliant calming influence on the defence as well as a top quality shot stopper.
But who should it be?
Manuel Neuer (Germany) - Tall, agile and a the calmness to reassure the defenders infront of him. He reads the game well and seems in control the way Van Der Sar is. Great reflexes and good at distributing the ball. May be fairly expensive as Schalke are quite strong financially.
Hugo Lloris (France) - Stunning reactions and agility, though sometimes he flaps at dangerous crosses into the penalty box. Still pretty young and not overly tall for a goalkeeper, but he communicates well with the defence and he's still got lots of time to improve. Players from Lyon are often expensive though; just look at Michael Essien and Karim Benzema and how much they cost Chelsea and Real Madrid respectively.
Igor Akinfeev (Russia) - Despite being young he's really confident and composed and good at controlling the penalty box. He has fantastic reflexes and the agility to make saves and get up really quickly to stop another shot on goal. Could improve his catching, but not afraid to come and claim the ball even when players are challenging for it. Would probably cost Manchester United a lot of money to sign him from CSKA Moscow.
Pepe Reina (Spain) - Despite a couple of mistakes this season, his speed of thought and confidence in goal make him a great goalkeeper for defenders to play in front of. Great at getting off his line and cutting down the angle and good handling of crosses. Would also deflate Liverpool fans if he did move, though it's unlikely.
Gianluigi Buffon (Italy) - Amazingly consistent and reliable, he has nearly all the qualities a goalkeeper needs and has delivered top performance for a decade now. Truly superb reflexes and able to regularly produce fantastic saves; the only question mark might be whether he can handle the sheer number of crosses a goalkeeper needs to cope with in the Premier League, as occasionally this is a slight weakness in his game. Would still cost quite a lot, though surely nowhere near as much as Juventus paid for him originally.
Maarten Stekelenburg (Holland) - Had an excellent World Cup and has really developed the sort of consistency in his game which had previously been lacking and seen Van Der Sar preferred ahead of him. Very tall and a good shot-stopper, who's been in excellent form again this season for Ajax. Probably wouldn't cost too much with Ajax's financial problems.
Tomas Kuszczak (Poland) - Already currently at the club, but not that long ago only seen by Ferguson as United's third best goalkeeper, behind Van Der Sar and Ben Foster. Capable of making the occasional mistake, though a talented goalkeeper.
Anders Lindegaard (Denmark) - Question marks about whether he'll be able to deal with the physicality of the Premier League, with balls being crossed into the box at pace. More likely to be a second choice goalkeeper, the way Kuszczak has been, at least until he gets a bit more experience of English football.
First choice for me would be Reina, though if Liverpool refused to let him leave then Neuer would be the one I'd most like at Manchester United, out of the rest of the names in the list.
I don't think Ferguson can afford to copy what Wenger did, by trying to promote his second choice goalkeeper; didn't work with Almunia at Arsenal and it's unlikely to work with Kuszczak at Man Utd either. Obviously other options like Craig Gordon, Nicolas De Gea or Rene Adler, but I think I've covered most of the most likely names.
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