The Busby Babe continues with the twelfth installment of our 2012-13 Manchester United player reviews. Next up is goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard.
I'm going to be dividing each of the player reviews into three categories: 'what was expected' will be a brief and general explanation of what the expectations were for the player prior to the season's start, 'what we got' will typically be the section with the most depth as this will be the heart of the review, and 'what's next?' will be an examination of the player's future at United.
What was expected
When Lindegaard was brought to United in January of 2011 for a modest transfer fee of £3.5 million, he was not thought to be the successor to Edwin van der Sar when the great United goalkeeper would go on to retire at that season's end. That following summer, David de Gea was bought for a transfer fee in the region of £18 million and it was widely assumed that the Spaniard was to be the Dutchman's successor. Lindegaard, though, to an extent, got a chance.
The then 20-year-old de Gea received criticism soon after his arrival because of his perceived inability to command his box in the physical English Premier League. Sir Alex Ferguson was always quick to drop the youngster and in these instances, Lindegaard would get his chance. The Dane was better in handling crosses compared to de Gea -- though not quite dominant by any means -- but he was clearly inferior as both a shot-stopper and on the ball with his feet. By the end of the 2011-12 season, the Spaniard was in stellar form and because of both that and injury, Lindegaard never featured late in the season. It was thought that he would be the clear No.2 ahead of this season.
What we got
This season somewhat mirrored last season for United's goalkeepers. A few shaky moments early-on -- at least in the eyes of Fergie -- resulted in de Gea being benched at times and in Lindegaard getting a run games. In both September and November, the Dane got a handful of games and very few after that. During these opportunities, the 29-year-old wasn't terrible, but he was hardly a standout either. And on a few goals that he conceded, there was the lingering concern that perhaps he could have done better. His 56.8% save percentage was quite poor (albeit the sample size is small) and it pales in comparison to de Gea's 76.4% from this season and his league-leading 77.9% from last season.
Overall, Lindegaard appears very much to be a backup caliber goalkeeper in the Premier League: his shot-stopping and reflexes are okay at best, he's generally safe and conservative with the ball at his feet (but his passing range and first-touch leave a lot to be desired for a side that likes to work the ball out of the back), and he's average in dealing with crosses and set-pieces. He's very determined, though, and he's let be clearly known that he wants de Gea's spot as the No.1. He's very vocal in organizing his defense, as well, but how effective he is at it is difficult to judge from watching a match at the ground or on television.
If Lindegaard desires to be a No.1 in the near future, then he likely needs to depart Old Trafford because the talented de Gea is very much entrenched now. The Dane clearly is grateful to be at United but the club surely would be understanding if he asked to be sold. It's debatable if he could move to another Premier League side and become a starter, therefore, he might have to move abroad. Realistically, United could probably fetch somewhere in the neighborhood of £3-6 million in a transfer fee for him. The 29-year-old currently has three years remaining on his £40k/week contract*
* This is reportedly more than Robert Lewandowski makes at Borussia Dortmund!
If Lindegaard is willing to stay, then United would probably be content to keep him around as de Gea's back-up -- although it's possible that new manager David Moyes doesn't rate him like Fergie and former goalkeeper coach Eric Steele did. If he goes, youngsters Ben Amos or Sam Johnstone could be given a chance to earn the spot as a No.2. More likely, though, United would probably shop for a more experienced goalkeeper.