Edwin van der Sar: Manchester United need a new backbone for Louis van Gaal to succeed
Edwin van der Sar is certain that Louis van Gaal can restore Manchester United as a trophy winning powerhouse, but says his old manager has yet to assemble a core group of players around whom he can plot future successes.
Of course, the former goalkeeper has a storied history with both the Manchester club and its tetchy manager, who has looked increasingly vexed of late while fielding questions over his selection policy and possession-based brand of football which, at times, has bordered on the soporific.
A member of the great Ajax side coached by Van Gaal in the 90s, van der Saar won a UEFA Cup and Champions League under the stewardship of the former Barcelona boss.
Despite delivering on his promise of securing Champions League football in his first season, Van Gaal’s tenure, particularly in light of the amount of money he’s spent on new talent, has come under increased scrutiny.
Since October 1, United have drawn three and lost one of the four games they have played in all competitions, but van der Saar claims that when Van Gaal arrived at Ajax there was no immediate turnaround in fortunes, though silverware soon followed.
“The way he likes to play, in Ajax he came in ’91 as the manger and the first year was difficult. But we had a great run in Europe and won the UEFA Cup in ‘92 , but we finished fourth in the league and by December people were waving the white flags about his play.
“I’m sure with the results he had Bayern Munich and Barcelona, he’s the guy who can bring United back to the success we had while I was at the club,” he said while speaking at the Web Summit in the RDS.
Van der Saar arrived at Old Trafford from Fulham in June 2005 in the autumn of his career, and proved to be the first stopper capable of filling the void left behind by Peter Smeichel six years earlier.
Over the next six seasons he helped United to four Premier League titles and the 2008 Champions League, and is widely considered one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s greatest ever signings.
He reckons the key to the club’s dominance in that period was that Ferguson could rely on a number of seasoned and talented individuals to drive on the larger collective.
With the level of personnel upheaval that has transpired during Van Gaal’s short time at the helm, Holland’s most capped ever player says replicating that environment would be extremely difficult, though it is possible for his compatriot to do so.
“He came in last year after a difficult period for the club. He was unlucky with some players he had in the first year, as an example Di Maria.
“The team has transformed a lot with a lot of new players, without the backbone of a Giggs, Scholes, Neville, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra or myself.
“Hopefully with Rooney and Carrick, with Smalling and Jones who have come through in the last few years, hopefully they can build a new backbone to bring success to United,” he said.