A couple of weeks ago, United goalkeeper coach Eric Steele stated that United are in a much better position now than they we were ten years ago after the release of Peter Schmeichel to Sporting Lisbon; but reflecting on this – how bad was our Goalkeeping crisis?
The memories of our greatest goalkeeper cartwheeling like a jubilant school child on the Nou Camp turf nine and a half years ago still lives long in the memory – it is hard to even believe it took five goalkeepers to find the eventual replacement in Edwin Van Der Sar. Mark Bosnich tried and failed, the “entertaining” Massimo Taibi, the nervous Tim Howard and the keeper that just wasn’t quite good enough in Roy Carroll.
The exclusion from the list is Fabian Barthez, the eccentric World Cup winning French goalkeeper who will forever be remembered for those errors against Arsenal, Deportivo and ultimately Real Madrid. However, Barthez was actually a fantastic goalkeeper, who although wasn’t Peter Schmeichel in terms of stature and size, was an exceptional shot stopper and had great first season as a Red.
However people often remember the negatives about a player, like with Taibi who is unfairly remember for the Southampton error and usually tops the worst player ever for United, and the goalkeeping blunders against Arsenal in the league and Deportivo in the Champions League but in his first full season at United (2000/01) he showed why he was the goalkeeper of the World Champions France. United conceded only 31 goals in 38 games in the Premiership that season and won the league by ten points (also losing the lasts three games of the season to close the gap slightly). United had found a replacement for Schmeichel and brought much needed confidence to the backline who previously had Bosnich and Taibi to deal with.
Bosnich was a fat overrated keeper who never could cut the mustard at United and I was glad to see the back of him. Taibi, who was voted MOTM against Liverpool on his debut, made some high profile errors and was ultimately shown the door (he was also in goal for the 5-0 drumming at the hands of Chelsea – which more embarrassingly included a Chris Sutton goal). Tim Howard did show in some games his potential and proved to be a very good shot stopper – however a number of errors led the gaffer to replacement the Amercian with our reserve keeper, Roy Carroll. Carroll had balls, however he didn’t quite have the talent to match his gutsy exterior and played a part in United’s 1-0 defeat to Milan at Old Trafford.
Barthez was a good keeper for United and for that part I disagree with what Steele said. United got it wrong about Bosnich but it is difficult to replacement such a character at a football club. Van Der Sar will not be around too much longer and i’m very confident that plans are afoot to replace the Dutchman. Will United put faith in Ben Foster, the English goalkeeper who has shown great promise in his games that he has played for United and the loan spell at Watford or will Fergie opt to bring in a new face like he did in 1999? We’ll have to wait and see, however I am confident that it didn’t take us six years to replace Schmeichel.