Van Der Sar still motivated
Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar begins the slow descent to the end of his career tomorrow insisting motivation is not going to be a problem.
Van der Sar confirmed on Thursday that he would retire at the end of the season, bringing an end to a stellar 20-year career. Yet there must be an unspoken concern about how the announcement will affect the veteran Dutchman's performances. After all, Sir Alex Ferguson openly admits that when he announced his retirement for 2002, it had an adverse affect on United's performances.
However, Van der Sar does not feel the same will apply to him. The 40-year-old remains driven and motivated, and his sheer love of being outdoors ensures his training performances will not suffer.
"I don't see motivation until the end of the season being a problem at all," he said. "There was a point last year when it was four degrees and the rain was pouring down. Ben Foster asked me whether I still wanted to do it in such rubbish weather. I said I loved it.
"That is still the case. I had a calf injury just after Christmas and was not able to go outside for 12 days. The only time I went outside was to get from the training building to the car, and then from the car to the house. After 12 days I wanted to go outside. That feeling will always be there. I want to train and I want to contribute to a team that deserves to win something."
Rested for Saturday's FA Cup tie at Southampton, Van der Sar will return tomorrow night as United look to consolidate their five-point lead over Arsenal at the top of the Premier League when they take on Aston Villa at Old Trafford. With a presence already secured in the latter stages of both the UEFA Champions League and FA Cup, it promises to be a fabulous epitaph for Van der Sar's career.
Not that he goes in for such neat endings. And there was certainly not a thought that he might carry on until United would win a trophy he deemed a suitable ending to his career. "It would be strange thing to say I was going to carry on for another year just to do something. That would be like forcing things," he said.
"There is always a chance you could finish up with nothing. Sure, you would be disappointed if that is what happens. But that is not going to change what I achieved in the rest of my career." In any case, Van der Sar does not expect to finish the season empty-handed. "With the players we have here and the determination of the boss, we must focus on doing everything right and make sure we get something," he said.
Replacements being lined up
In Van der Sar's absence, Anders Lindegaard caught the eye on his debut at the weekend, although a significant number of potential purchases are bound to be linked with United before the start of next season, including Maarten Stekelenburg, who stepped into the vacant Netherlands shirt when the United goalkeeper retired from international duty in 2008.
With his vast knowledge of the position, and understanding of the demands any United goalkeeper must face, Van der Sar does expect Ferguson to gauge his opinion before deciding what to do.
"I think the manager will talk to me," he said. "Obviously you have some conversations about yourself or about other things. But I presume they have done some homework already because I don't think this is a big shock. I would expect them to have a few possibilities on their radar."