Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster has revealed the Edwin van der Sar issue that ensured his spell with Man Utd was destined to fail.
Manchester United had struggled to adequately replace Peter Scmeichel after the legendary Dane moved on in 1999. A string of stoppers were tried including Raymond van der Gouw, Massimo Taibi, Mark Bosnich, Fabien Barthez, Roy Carroll and Tim Howard.
But it wasn’t until Edwin van der Sar arrived in 2005 before Sir Alex Ferguson was finally satisfied.
The great Dutchman helped Manchester United lift four Premier League titles in his six-year stint. His time at the club also coincided with reaching two Champions League finals – winning one in 2008.
However, Van der Sar’s spell in Manchester also coincided with back-up goalkeeper Ben Foster’s.
Foster was highly regarded upon joining from Stoke City as a 22-year-old in 2005. However, on the rare occasions he deputised for Van der Sar, his performances faltered.
That led to his sale to Birmingham City in 2010 before excelling at subsequent clubs West Brom and Watford. Now aged 38, Foster is still going strong in the top flight with the Hornets.
Now, speaking to the UTD Podcast, Foster has explained why his Old Trafford career was doomed from the beginning.
The veteran stopper explained he struggled with nerves brought about by the pressure of filling Van der Sar’s boots. Furthermore, he admitted those that voiced their doubts about him at the time “were right”.
“I need to go now” – Ben Foster
“I was so nervous, I couldn’t beat it,” admitted Foster.
“[I] knew I couldn’t do what that guy could do so always, in the back of my mind, I’m thinking that everybody’s just going to go ‘well, you can’t fill his boots’.
“They were right. They’ve got to be right because [he’s] one of the best goalies to have done it. I always had that in the back of my mind.
“Towards the end of the season when I actually left, it got to a point where I just thought ‘I need to go now. I can’t stay in the shadow of Edwin van der Sar because I just can’t do what that guy can do’.
“I think because [Van der Sar] was so much older, when I left, I think he was 37 or 38, he knew how to deal with being a Man United player. He was world class.
“He knew how to deal with being a Man United player and dealing with the pressure, the expectation. I did not know how to do that. Nobody had ever showed me or taught me how to do that.
“People show you how to play football, but they can’t ever show you or expose you to that level of scrutiny and pressure until you’re there in that moment.”