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Howard Lesson Should Teach Fergie To Keep Foster Faith

Tim Howard played a blinder in his first season at United, so much so, he was named PFA Keeper of the Year. It is important to note he fought off competition from Jens Lehmann who had just enjoyed an unbeaten season with Arsenal and Chelsea’s Carlo Cudicini, who both conceded fewer goals than him.

Following his cock-up in the European Cup, a game which should have already been won thanks to a Paul Scholes goal which was wrongly disallowed, his confidence took a knock and he was replaced by Roy Carroll for a month, only after featuring in one more game: the 4-1 defeat to City (where Mikael Silvestre was the villain, but it still couldn’t have helped Howard).

Howard regained his place in the team for the final six matches of the season, including our 3-0 in the FA Cup final (making him the first Yank to claim an FA Cup winners medal), but that was the peak of his United career.

Roy Carroll was a poor goalkeeper, by United’s standards at least, but that didn’t stop him starting far too many games for us. Whilst the memories of the individual games seem to blur in to one, the fear I felt every time an opposing team broke in to our half was ridiculous. Whilst the country was talking about our decline, our midfield comprised of the likes of Djemba-Djemba, Kleberson, Richardson and Fletcher (yeh yeh, when he wasn’t good enough), it was the goalkeeping situation that was the most worrying.

Howard played in goal for the opening two months of the 04-05 season but was replaced by Carroll in October. Howard played all our FA and League cup games in January whilst Carroll was played in the league, who retained the spot until February, where his blunder in the 78th minute lead to a defeat in the home leg of the European Cup tie against AC Milan. Howard took over Premiership duty during March and April until the American gifted Newcastle the lead in the game where Rooney scored that goal. Howard didn’t play again that season with Carroll taking over for May and the FA Cup final which saw us lose on penalties, Carroll not making a save. It was a fucking farce.

Whilst the manager has been up for criticism time and again over the years, from our fans as much as elsewhere, he pretty much always proves people wrong. As regards to this goalkeeping situation though, Ferguson made an error in judgement. Howard was suffering from lacking confidence (who wouldn’t be when Roy fucking Carroll was ahead of them in pecking order?!) and needed to be trusted. Yeh, he certainly made some fuck ups but for Ferguson to chop and change the keeper, depending on a mistake they made in the previous game, resulted in both keepers becoming nervous wrecks. Carroll was never worthy of our number one shirt but Howard had been, and could have been again.

Of course, alls well that ends well, and Howard’s lacking confidence resulted in the experienced Edwin Van der Sar coming in. Who knows what would have happened over the past few seasons if we hadn’t had Edwin between the sticks. But this doesn’t change that there was a serious lack of judgement from Ferguson during the Howard-Carroll stage.

Howard has gone on to prove himself as a good quality Premiership keeper with Everton and last season set a record for his club of 17 clean sheets, which was only bettered by United, Chelsea and Liverpool. Is he good enough to be United’s number one? It’s hard to tell. He doesn’t have a United back four in front of him these days so it’s unfair to compare him like for like with Edwin, but the point is, we’ll never really know.

As far as I’m concerned, the jury is still out on Ben Foster, whilst for many, their minds are already made up – he’s not good enough. But Ferguson has really gone out on a limb with this lad, praising him time and again and really raising his profile.

It was July 2006 when the manager first starting tipping Foster to be England’s number one, and therefore by default, United’s as well. This was then repeated in January 2007 and several times since.

For Ferguson to do this, he must have faith in him, which means he must keep playing him, to the disappointment of several readers here. But we can’t have another Tim Howard scenario here. We have to keep going with Foster, not turning to Tomasz “Roy Carroll” Kuszczak to fill the gap until Van der Sar returns. If Foster is given a real go in the team, really trusted and supported, and still makes a hash of things, then it’s time for us to part ways. But six matches is nowhere near enough time for us to decide whether he’s got it or he hasn’t. Get a grip.

There are several things to remember before casting Foster aside, most importantly, his display in the League Cup final last season. Saving a penalty, making a great stop to deny Aaron Lennon in normal time and being named Man of the Match. His contribution won us a trophy, how is that so easy to forget for some?

Another point, this is a fella who really, really wants to play for us, who has pretty much put his career on hold to get a chance to play in our first team. When the deal was close to being finalised in 2005, a 22-year-old Foster talked of his strong desire to join us.

“Ever since I heard of their interest I’ve been on tenterhooks and had a few sleepless nights,” he said. “It’s a massive, massive club and a massive chance for me. Hopefully the two clubs can get something sorted out now.”

When on loan at Watford he reaffirmed his commitment to the club and his focus on playing for us.

“I’ve bought a house on the outskirts of Manchester and want to settle down with the club,” he said in March 2007. “I want to be at Old Trafford. That’s my club and I’m ready to stake my claim. I want to settle down to focus solely on my United career.”

He missed out on the FA Cup semi-final against United due to a clause in his loan deal with Watford but spoke of his desire to come back to us and his admiration of Van der Sar.

“Hopefully if I can go back and force myself into number one that would be unbelievable, it would be brilliant,” he said. “But if it’s going to be a case of sitting on the bench and waiting for the odd game here and there it’s obviously going to be disappointing, but it’s not going to be a bad place to be at really. You’re going to be picking up certain things from people like Edwin van der Sar and that. I think he’s been brilliant this season. I wouldn’t say he actually deserves to lose his place because I think he’s been one of the best keepers this season.”

Foster made his debut against lowly Derby and saved us from embarrassment, making a great save to stop Kenny Miller giving our opponents the lead in a game we won 1-0.

“I finally feel like a United player now!” he beamed in the post match interview. “I’ve been here nearly three years and it’s good to finally get on the pitch for the first team in a competitive game. It’s a big thing to come back from injury and to be thrown straight into the first team, but I thoroughly enjoyed it – though it was a bit harder than I thought!”

He has waited patiently for his chance, not looking to jump ship to another good club where he would get first team football, something he certainly would have been able to do, yet after just six games he already has sections of the support turning on him. Yeh, he’s made some schoolboy errors, but Van der Sar has 12 years on him and he still makes them! You haven’t forgotten Anfield or St. James’ Park last season have you? Nobody is perfect. Think of all the times Wayne Rooney can’t get his shot anywhere close to being on target, or Giggs’ corner can’t beat the first man, or Scholesy does something daft (ranging from handballs to stupid and costly bookings), or Rio kicks the ball at Bellamy seconds before injury time, or Vidic lets the ball bounce when Torres is looming… you get the picture?

This isn’t me arguing Foster is our future number one rather me arguing that he could be and we should give him a chance to prove that. We could have a player here who is good enough to fill Van der Sar’s boots (and gloves) and if we’ve learnt anything over the past decade, it’s that replacing world class goalkeepers is a bloody tough job!

Essentially, we’re all entitled to our opinions and if you’re ready to judge Foster after six games, a judgement the manager does not agree with, then that is entirely up to you. But I hope Fergie has learnt his lesson where goalkeepers are concerned, which is supported by his decision to keep the faith with Foster for today’s match, and that with time, our patient, unlucky, sometimes outstanding, other times scary, determined, committed, United-focused keeper proves the manager right and wears our number one jersey with pride for years to come.

About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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  1. Mr Santos says:

    Love it!

  2. parth312 says:

    Very sane article. Agree with the reasoning. Lets hope Foster keeps those errors to a bare minimum and we could have a great quality keeper. Predictions for tonight: Stoke 0 Man United 2, with Berba bagging a brace. :)

  3. theboogeyman says:

    Watching Scholesy tackle makes me smile for some reason.

    Right,on topic now.

    Foster is a quality keeper,he’s on bad form at the moment,just like Carrick,and both of them are good,United quality players who Sir Alex believes in.

    Form is temporary,class is permanent.

  4. bchilds says:

    I think Ferguson will stick with Foster, he’s already stated that, until Edwin returns, Foster is the no.1 – let’s hope he redeems himself at Stoke

  5. Gotta hate tiny tears says:

    fantastic read
    as i said yesterday the only keeper that should replace foster between the posts is van der sar as it would do damage to the guys confidence
    and as we seen by the wolves game p.i.g. is a very good keeper to have on the bench its just long ball lond trow stoke is not a good game for him

  6. Tufty says:

    The problem Howard had was concentration.
    You can go all game at Utd and only have to make a save in the 90th minute.
    That was Howards problem, he lost the concentration. Its different at Everton where he will have to make several decent saves in a game and have a lot more to deal with.

    Howard still would have made a great number 2 keeper though, hes much better than Kuzsac.
    The unfortunate situation that Howard found himself in, was at the start of his last seaosn, he was playing in front of a makeshift back 4. Heinze hadnt started games as he has been away at the Olympics. Rio was still banned.
    The turning point was the away game at Bolton, where a series of errors between howard and Silvestre cost us the game. I dont think Howard started a game after that, but when Carroll came in, the back 4 became a lot more settled, making Carroll look a lot better than he actually was.

    Its annoying that we never signed VDS when he left Juve, those years at Fulham were a waste for such a great keeper, while we struggled.

    One key error can cost a keeper.
    Bosnich was a decent keeper, he just couldnt kick and it caused panic in the back 4, players wouldnt back pass to him and paniced when they had the ball in awkward areas.

    Taibi was MOM at Anfield on his debut, but a 5 goal defeat at Chelsea and a silly goal through his legs against Southampton cost him his place. He went back to Italy and played some decent games.

    Barthez was a superb keeper, just to short. The goal away at laverkusen in the semi final cost Barthez, any other keeper would have tipped that over.
    People will point the finger at his hand in the air against West Ham in the cup, but that was clever, if it came off, we would be calling him a genious.
    Barthez’s downfal came in the home game against Madrid were Ronaldo got a hat trick, he was to blame for quite a few of the goals that night, failing to cover his post.

    Foster is a great keeper, he can pull off reflex saves, has the concentration as he has shown in recent games and has superb distribution, often starting our attacks with great throws.
    The reason he comes under criticism is that he is English and the press like to slate English keepers. Some people also look at his career history, as he came from Stoke reserves and loan spells at the likes of Wrexham he is easy to slate. Had he signed for £15 million from abroad, he would be hailed as a top signing.

  7. Gotta hate tiny tears says:

    imagine if scholes goal had of counted when it should
    there would be no porto cup win
    there would be no special one

  8. wazza (Bezi) says:

    good point Scott. this will definitely make Foster think that Fergie and the GK staff have full faith in him and boost his confidence.

  9. Fze123 says:

    Very good article, thank you Scott. I hope Foster will play better tonight, we do need to get behind him and be supportive. His confidence is already low, he really is a quality keeper when on form. I hope fergie will again prove us all wrong, and show us why he praised him and kept faith in him time and time again.

  10. devil@singapore says:

    do agreed with keeping faith with foster now. we may get ourselves a great keeper in é end. drop him now, it will be é end for ben, & all those years of grooming & being patient with him will all go down into è drain.

  11. confoundedbridge says:

    I always thought SAF should have brought Howard on for the penalties in ’05.

    Is Kuszczak really that bad? I can’t recall too many blunders from him, and whilst his kicking isn’t great, he’s a very talented keeper in my opinion. Definitely doesn’t deserve to be compared to Carroll.

  12. King Eric says:

    Morning folk.

    Great article Scott. Have been saying all week how can people say he is not for United after 6 games? No patience at all. It will be the same people who were saying close season that our midfield is weak.

  13. Tufty says:

    Fergie says he tried to bring Howard on for the pens in 2005 Cup Final v Arsenal as he was a better pen saver than Carroll, he had him warming up, but the ref suddenly blew up before Fergie could get him on.

  14. krzys82pl says:

    I agree with you Scott about Foster but Tomasz “Roy Carroll” Kuszczak? He’s very good goalie, 2 times “saves of the seasons”, he deserved a chance.

  15. Bob Koh says:

    Scott, you’re brilliant to come out with this observation. Foster needs games to settle in & there’ll be plenty with our involvement in all the 4 competition. I say give him a run even after VDS is ready to come back. As fans, we need to encourage & support.

  16. Mangesh says:

    Very good read Scott.

    Most of the goals scored against Foster this year have been quality goals .No doubt he was at fault for first goal against Man City but the lad looked assured in rest of the games and made some wonderful saves. Lets give him some time.

    Come on Foster. Prove all your critics wrong.

  17. mikeyg2310 says:

    I really hope that you are right Scott. I don’t like moaning about our players. Maybe we have been spoilt by having Big Peter and Van Der Sar over the years.
    Come on Ben, do a ‘Fletcher’ and prove all the critics wrong.

  18. aig alex is god says:

    Good morning everyone

    Goalkeeping is a very tricky make one eroor and the whole blame is on you.thats what has happened with foster.i personally think he is not good enough but than thats me.its not about making saves that he is poor at but a player who has been playing for 4-5 years now should atleast know how to kick the ball properly under pressure.he has fantastic reflexes but he has to get the basics right.Today will be another big test for him.lets see how he performs. neither do i think kusczak is good.we need to sign 2 new keepers but United have always had some troublw with keepers so we should take time.

    I am not saying he does not deserve a chance but 6 games is not a small number and just as it was looking he was improving with every game he fucks up big time last week and once again the progress is halted and we start from ground zero again

  19. Snoopy says:

    Honestly, It is a huge pressure to become MU no 1 keeper..
    Frankly, hope Foster will be the Next No 1.

  20. Scott the Red says:

    By likening Kuszczak to Carroll, I wasn’t claiming he is actually as bad as Carroll was, rather that he is playing the role Carroll did, whilst Foster is similar to Howard. Foster can’t be dropped in the league for Kus ahead of Van der Sar’s return.

  21. aig alex is god says:

    scott. can you please do the live blog for today’s game?

  22. Wheres_my_bottle says:

    Just hope Ben Foster reads this blog. Defend him all you want, but if he continues making mistakes, he’s got to go. We cant JUST back him to the end because he’s a talent. He’s got to convert talent into consistency. Till then, the jury is out………

  23. BD says:

    Good one Scott. This should go under ROM’s best articles.

  24. kel says:

    I do agree with Sir Alex. If he were to change he goalkeeper for today match, i’m sure foster could have been very less confident. We should stick with him for the time being and if he still makes many mistakes in the coming month by then we start to judge him.

  25. boam6 says:

    I no fergie should have give Howard more time but you understand why fergie was pissed at him he cost us the champions league may seem a wild statement but look who Porto beat to win the champ league easiest run to the final you’ve ever seen!! Lyon , deportivo and monaco surely if we would have won that game we would now be sat here with four champions leagues and still without killing anyone!! Hope foster gets a real good chance once edwin retires

  26. gingerprince says:

    Exactly what i wanted to hear from someone Scott, these knee jerk assessments of players must stop….

  27. denton davey says:

    Maybe, maybe not. So far TheBenFosterExperiment hasn’t cost UTD much; but the margins between first and “first-last” are very tight so it’s not just a matter of protecting Ben’s feelings/confidence but looking out for the best interests of the team.

    A lot of UTD’s present and future has been invested in TheBenFosterExperiment – and he is scheduled to replace a terrific keeper – BUT so far he has been less than reliable.

    These jitters have to stop. Period.

    No more excuses.

  28. Jake says:

    It just gives all the media something to talk about, everyone is always looking for an alternative angle and the next weakness and this week it’s Foster’s turn, along with Ferdinand’s injuries. The salient point is that Van der Sar isn’t as good as Ben Foster in net, he makes as many mistakes and flaps, whilst not being as good a shot stopper as Foster.

  29. willierednut says:

    Ben will prove the doubters wrong, lets give em a bit of time for fcuksake.

  30. DinoTheDog says:

    The thing that made the great Dane great was that he just about never ever made a mistake, and if it seemed as if he made a mistake, it was someone elses fault, and if it wasn’t someone elses fault, he forgot about it quickly.

  31. Mahesh says:

    Stick on with Foster I say – it is NOT easy, as we’ve seen over the years, for goalies to come in and keep well for United. Foster has just broken in and got a decent run of games…He is bound to be nervous, sometimes making certain decisions which are rash and panicky. This is true of ANY player on the park, but goalie’s get stick for such errors all the time simply because they don’t get a second chance – strikers can miss a couple and we can put it down to nerves, and as long as they contribute on the pitch and put a few in, its all okay. Not so with keepers. Foster is also young for a goalkeeper, and is playing at a BIG team for the first time. We know he can pull of blinding saves, we know he generally looks quality, just needs a bit of time to build up confidence and composure and he’ll be okay.

    Also remember that he knows Edwin will be back once he’s fit. For Foster that means he’s got to make a point before Edwin’s back. That surely makes him take risks and try TOO hard to look good. The big question now is, what is Edwin’s return going to do to Foster. Ideally you would want him to play on through the season and build up confidence and composure.

    Let us not forget that while he has made a few errors he has also saved us a few points in the last few games – the save off van persie, and jenas come readily to mind.

  32. Xyth says:

    As long as our strikers score one more than the opposition, goalkeeping errors can be tolerated. The goalkeeping becomes an issue when strikers have an off day and we can only score an odd goal. It is then having a rock in the goal matters to keep a clean sheet get us through.

    Lets hope Ben learns from his mistakes, tries harder in trainig and does not become another Roy Carroll.

  33. Gaffer says:

    Ben Foster proved your point today, Scott

  34. Joseph says:

    The problem is:-

    1. Howard is and was better than Foster will ever be – though not better than VDS.

    2. Kuzcack is as least as good, if not better than Foster. He’s bided his time, he’s paid his dues – so why is it that he’s not earned a shot? So Foster gets all the time in the world to mess up from the start of the season till VDS returns in 3-4 weeks – Kuzcack hasn’t made near as many mistakes as Foster has, yet he hasn’t been given a run to stake his own claim.

    I’m not saying either is good enough to be our future #1 (Foster definitely isn’t) – but I sense more than a hint of favouriteism on the part of Ferguson – for whatever reason (Nationality, overhyped talent, past one off performances and overrated stint at Watford).

    Ferguson has predominantly not shown himself to be a great judge of goalkeeping talent – and he’s seemingly continuing along that trend again.

  35. carlosAMI says:


  36. carlosAMI says:


  37. Saad says:

    A very good read Scott

  38. cantona7 says:

    @carlosAMI lol you are using capitals all the way and then question other people’s rationalization?

    All the three goals were gifted by Foster?

    Big joke..

  39. carlosAMI says:

    RENE ADLER=10 times better than ben;german no. 1,better than neuer;declared man u fan;ideal vds replacement;AVAILABLE!EVEN lousy TAIBI DIDN”T GIFT 3 GOALS(BF TO MC) IN A SINGLE GAME!fergie you r now in vintage form like giggs do not blight it..remember the inept howard and the loss to mourinho’s porto in the cl as well as no cl trophy in the cantona yrs/in yr wisdom now look back,think,what if staam and the form finding veron had stayed /BEN FOSTER WILL TAKE US BACKWARDS

  40. Mad says:

    Don’t worry,Carlos!If Fergie has said he is fully behind him,that means he is looking for replacement :)

  41. themarkedman72 says:

    good article but its slight of hand really. Bottom line is he has made school boy errors and been awful for the much of those six games and we cant afford it in the champions league or against Chelsea or Liverpool. Lets see you carry weight through a few more shockers that cost us. There is far better out there and Fergie will get em. Foster will either put up or push off at that point.

  42. R3-Ruud,Ronaldo,Rooney says:

    For all those Foster doubters out there (and plenty they are), I really see your point of view. Foster has not been the giant between the sticks which we as fans have been accustomed to seeing (read: VDS and the Great Dane).

    I get you are all entitled to your opinions (as am i). However, bear in mind, it is the opinion of Fergie AND the defence in front of Foster which should be taken into consideration the most, agreed?

    Hence, enjoy:{F9E570E6-407E-44BC-800F-4A3110258114}&redirectorid=news_story&newsid=6640392

  43. Devilton says:

    Good article. Even though I disagree with his potential of ever being our #1 I want to be proved wrong. I just hope he doesn’t cock it up against the likes of Liverpool or Chelsea when we meet them later in the year. I honestly think that would be the end of his career…especially if we went onto lose the game because of a goalkeeping error.

    Still, I want to believe he can be good as SAF believes him to be.

  44. CROoney says:

    i’ve always liked tim – and i compared ben to him – they’re both doubtfull on crosses


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