With Edwin van der Sar announcing that he plans to hang up the gloves at season's end, the discussion has switched to: Who will be Manchester United's next No 1? The Dutchman's arrival at Old Trafford ended the woeful 6-year search for a worthy successor to the great Peter Schmiechel. The Red Devils already have goalkeepers Tomasz Kuszczak, Ben Amos, and recent signing Anders Lindegaard on the books, however, none appear to be inline to be United's No 1 for the 2011-12 season. Kuszczak likely will be on his way out, as he's stated he'd like to leave United if he isn't going to be the successor to van der Sar. 26 year-old Lindegaard appears to the understudy to whoever comes in.
Sir Alex Ferguson took some time today during his press conference to praise van der Sar: "Edwin's impact as a professional is the one thing I will always remember about, he has been absolutely fantastic in all areas, quite apart from his ability on the football field. His training performances, his example to young players, his personality in the dressing room. He is a really special man."
My favorite van der Sar moment came during the penalty shootout versus Chelsea in the Champions League final: its when he played mind-games with Nicolas Anelka and made the save to crown United as the kings of Europe (9:00 mark).
A look at some of the candidates to replace the Dutchman after the jump...
* MANUEL NEUER
The 24-year old is the goalkeeper at Schalke and is Germany's No 1. He's been involved in constant transfer speculation, most notably to Bayern Munich and United. He is an excellent shot-stopper, and like van der Sar, he's reputed for his fantastic ability to distribute. Neuer already has big-match experience, as he's impressed both in the World Cup and in Champions League play. I'd be thrilled to see him at Old Trafford. Neuer highlights.
Along with Neuer, the 28 year-old has been short-listed to replace his fellow countrymen. van der Sar has even endorsed Stekelenburg to replace him. Furthermore, the two has a similar pedigree: Ajax and Netherlands No 1, and similar commanding physical presence (height: 1.98m, 6'6"). He had a stellar World Cup, which included a number of important and stellar saves.... Including what might have been the save of the World Cup versus Kaka. Stekelenburg was one of the more impressive players in South Africa to me.
* DAVID DE GEA
Atletico Madrid's No 1 is just 20 years old and has continually been linked with a move to Old Trafford. However, Fergie seems to be wary of young keepers, so it would certainly be interesting to see him as United's No 1 next season. De Gea did help Atletico Madrid win the Europa league. He's known to be very composed, confident and is commanding on crosses. He's a very good athlete, and even carries the nickname of "van der Gea" with his Atletico teammates, because of his likeness to our Dutchman. 'van der Gea' highlights.
* RENE ADLER
The 26 year-old Bayer Leverkusen has already made a "come and get me" plea to United. He's made no secret of his admiration for United, and his idol Schmeichel. Adler was destined to be Germany's No 1 this past summer in South Africa, but a rib injury derailed those plans, which allowed Neuer to take the role. Ze German is known for his quick reflexes. He was also named 'Best Bundesliga Goalkeeper' in 2008. Adler highlights.
* HUGO LLORIS
The Lyon and France No 1 is already regarded as one of the best in the world, and is just 24. He is capable of sensational saves, and is known as a good all-around 'keeper. Lloris' name has come up before as a possible replacement for van der Sar, but he might be difficult to pry away from the tough negotiating Lyon, who are likely to demand a high price for the Frenchman's services. Lloris highlights (bonus: awful music included).
* IGOR AKINFEEV
I've only seen the 24 year-old CSKA Moscow play versus United, but that's it. It would be fun to root for a guy named Igor, other than that, I don't have much of an opinion on him. In Euro 2008, Akinfeev is credited as a big reason for Russia's 3rd place finish. In researching him, I continually saw Akinfeev described as "brave," so he must be... brave. He doesn't appear to have ideal size (1.85m, 6'1"), but he seems to have impressed thus far in his career. Here's his highlights versus United. Another compilation of saves from IGOR.
* GIANLUIGI BUFFON
Not going to happen. However, he's been linked often with United in the past. Prior to his recent injury, the Juventus and Italian No 1 was regarded by many as the finest goalkeeper in the world. Despite recent odd treatment from his club Juve, Gigi doesn't appear to leaving the Turin club any time soon. Buffon highlights.
*EDIT* The Guardian claims here that Stekelenburg is indeed the top target for United. It includes quotes from Rene Meulensteen, United first-team coach. I'd be thrilled if we landed him