For the past six seasons, Manchester United had the great privilege in having one of the world's elite goalkeepers, Edwin van der Sar, protect their goal. Despite being 40-years-old for much of last season, the giant Dutchman was arguably the best goalkeeper in Europe as his side became the champions of England for a record 19th time and reached the UEFA Champions League final. After the departure of Peter Schmeichel in 1999, it was six agonizing seasons before van der Sar came on to provide stability between the posts. There is obvious concern amongst supporters that United may go through the same pain as they transition to a new No 1 this upcoming season. Here's a look at the candidates to who will attempt to fill the massive gloves of van der Sar:
David de Gea
There are 18.9 million reasons why the 20-year-old Spaniard will start the season as the No 1. Despite his youth, de Gea has shown tremendous promise thus far in having won the Europa League in 2010 as Atletico Madrid's No 1 and also the U-21 European Championship for Spain last month. United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and goalkeeper coach Eric Steele have extensively scouted the European continent over the past few seasons in search of the eventual replacement for van der Sar. After analyzing the likes of Manuel Neuer, Maarten Stekelenburg, and Rene Adler, it is the agile and quick de Gea that eventually was chosen.
There is little doubt over the youngsters outstanding shot-stopping ability - this has been on display during his limited appearances thus far during the pre-season. The concern perhaps lies in his decision-making and ability to communicate with defenders. In the English Premier league, it is a requirement to be strong and assured when a goalkeeper needs to come off of his line. At Atletico Madrid, de Gea showed tremendous ability with his feet and this was exemplified at times when he came off his line to act as a "sweeper-keeper." This is a sign of assured decision making and an ability to read the opposition's attack - through balls that split the defense is a common occurrence in La Liga. Despite being 6'4", de Gea and his wiry frame has not always looked as convincing with crosses - which is a requisite for the physical and direct play of the Premier League. In addition, de Gea's lack of grasp of the English language is a possible concern as well because communication is incredibly vital for a goalkeeper in their need to organize their defense. In the pre-season friendly versus the Chicago Fire, there was an alarming incident where de Gea failed to organize a wall on a simple free-kick.
Despite these concerns, this much is obvious - the Spaniard has tremendous talent and Fergie and co. have done their homework. There is a lot to be excited about. The United boss has even recently said that his reservations about Chelsea's Peter Cech in the past, in regards to his youth, were misguided and that age alone should not be enough to deter a club from acquiring an immensely talented goalkeeper. It is quite possible that de Gea settles any fear from supporters early in his Old Trafford career - he certainly will be thrown into the fire as United play Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, and Chelsea in their first five matches of the season. We will probably know quite quickly whether de Gea is up for the job at such a young age.
Brought over from Aalesund, a Norwegian football club, during the January transfer window, the Danish goalkeeper has shown himself quite well during his brief time with the club. After being brought over for a fee of £3.5 million, Lindegaard made a few appearances for United during their FA Cup run last season before being sidelined with a knee injury in March. With the likely departure of Tomasz Kuszczak in the coming weeks, it has been widely assumed that Lindegaard will be the back-up to the newly acquired de Gea. However, it is a fate that the 27-year-old does not feel resigned to as the Dane has continually spoke of his desire to fight for being United's No 1. While much should never be derived from pre-season performances, it is worth noting that Lindegaard has been tremendous in every opportunity given - he's shown confidence in both leadership and play while also displaying all the requisite physical ability.
Despite not receiving the endorsement of his fellow Dane and the former United great Schmeichel, Lindegaard appears determined to prove all doubters wrong. He is scouted to having all-around ability and his 6'4" frame helps him to have a commanding presence - all of which should benefit him in the Premier League. While it seems the Dane is a fine goalkeeper, the question appears to be whether or not he is elite enough to be a Manchester United No 1. This much is known though - if de Gea struggles to adapt in the Premier League, Lindegaard will be ready to pounce and make his case for the United No 1 role.
The 21-year-old Amos began his United career at the age of 11. Since then, he has continually progressed and represented England at every level from U-16 to U-20. In addition, he has spent time out on loan to Peterborough United, Molde FK, and Oldham Athletic. The 21-year-old goalkeeper spent much of the 2010-11 season as United's third-choice goalkeeper until the signing of Lindegaard in January. Amos has seen action for United's first-team at various points over the past few season, including an appearance versus Valencia during the Champions League group stages last Fall. For the upcoming season, Amos appears to be third-choice once again. The only question that remains is whether Amos will stay to fight for an increased role or whether he will go out for another loan spell in search of regular first-team football. The Englishman is a promising talent and his progression thus far may render him too good to be sitting on the bench as a 21-year-old as third-choice - a loan spell makes sense for his career progression but if he stays, Amos provides solid depth in the United goalkeeping hierarchy.