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Van der Sar: From no mobile to penalty saves with an iPad

Edwin van der Sar will have the details of Barcelona's penalty takers at the touch of his fingertips on an iPad before tonight's Champions League final and every inch he covers at Wembley on the last appearance of his illustrious career will be mapped out by computer technology.

Yet, when Manchester United's 40-year-old goalkeeper first laid hands on the European Cup with Ajax in 1995, he did not even possess a mobile phone.

Little wonder that the Dutchman believes he will be drawing the line under something that feels almost pre-historic when he packs his gloves away for the final time after the game.

"It does feel like a lifetime," Van der Sar said. "I'm working on my autobiography back in Holland at the moment and you talk about some things and see some pictures and you think, 'Wow, that was a lifetime ago'.

"Back then we were without mobile phone, internet, those kind of things. It has been a long road, but very enjoyable."

Reflection on bygone days is the closest Van der Sar gets to nostalgia as he approaches the end of the line.

The former Ajax, Juventus and Fulham goalkeeper, capped 130 times by Holland, is not the self-promoting type.

When asked this week to recall the standout game of his career, a roll of the eyes and exasperated shrug was followed by something of a surprise.

"You always play great games or good games," Van der Sar (right) said. "For example, we were playing at Wigan this year and we were under pressure for the first 25 minutes and I made two good saves from one-on-ones. But that's in a 38-game season, so maybe it doesn't count as much.

"You want your big performance in a big final, a save that everybody remembers. In 2008 (against Chelsea in Moscow), that was great. That will stay with me for a long time."

So it's a toss-up between winning three points at the DW Stadium and pulling off a penalty save to win the European Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium then.

Van der Sar's selection is a pointer towards the personality that has elevated him towards the pinnacle of goalkeeping.

United manager Alex Ferguson, who has identified Atletico Madrid's 20-year-old David de Gea as the veteran goalkeeper's successor, claims Van der Sar's dedication to the game has been central to his longevity.

"The reason Edwin has played for so long is that he has sacrificed himself to be at the very top," Ferguson said.

"He trains every day, never misses a session, and that is unusual at his age. He is getting the rewards for that, so every reward that he gets, and I hope he gets one at Wembley, he will deserve it."

Having made countless mistakes, some costly, when attempting to recruit a successor to Peter Schmeichel following the Treble in 1999, Ferguson has acknowledged that Van der Sar is likely to be equally irreplaceable.

Alex Stepney, United's goalkeeper in the 1968 European Cup final victory against Benfica at Wembley, has no doubts that Van der Sar's retirement will leave the club struggling to fill a giant hole.

"Edwin will be impossible to replace," Stepney said. "He is the last of the old-school goalkeepers. He goes headfirst at a forward's feet when making a save and not many do that nowadays. He is the master of doing nothing for 89 minutes and then making a crucial save. You will never get another Van der Sar."

That may not prove to be quite true. United have a 13-year-old goalkeeper on their books by the name of Joe van der Sar, who hopes one day to fill the gloves of his famous father. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent