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Van der Sar Mistake Serves Reminder Of Dark Days

Do you remember the days whenever the opposition got in to our half, you felt nervous? I’m not talking about that long ago. The 2004-2005 season was probably when it was at its worse. Our midfield was easily bypassed, with Kieran Richardson, Alan Smith and Darren Fletcher not up to the job, but our defence was alright. Mikael Silvestre left us with our hearts in our mouths at times, but Rio Ferdinand, Gabriel Heinze, Wes Brown and Gary Neville could do a job for us.

But if the ball got behind the defence, heaven help us. I remember tensing every time one of our players even passed it back to the goalie. Whether it was Tim Howard or Roy Carroll the manager had opted for that day, I didn’t want the ball anywhere near either of them.

Carroll played in 2/3 of the league games that season, Howard in the remaining 1/3 with Ferguson chopping and changing between two dependent on who looked the most shaky. The epitome of this indecision was the games against AC Milan in the last 16. We lost the first leg at Old Trafford after Carroll let a Clarden Seedorf shot pounce off his chest in to Hernan Crespo’s path to score. Howard got drafted in for the second leg but the scoreline was repeated after Howard just watched Crespo’s header sail past him.

By the end of the season, with United playing Arsenal in the FA Cup final, Carroll was definitely the favourite. After battering them for two hours and it coming down to penalties, I was certain the manager would use our last substitution to bring on Howard for Carroll, whose reactions were more impressive. But it wasn’t to be, Carroll didn’t come close to saving, and we lost. I’m not blaming that defeat on Carroll but merely pointing out what a total farce our goalkeeping situation was that season, with them being swapped when they shouldn’t and kept in goal when they should have been dropped. It was a shambles and made what was already a depressing season fairly unbearable.

As West Brom levelled the score yesterday, I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. I would have one looked like one of those dopes the Sky Sports camera zoom in on, hands covering my mouth and eyes wild. Van der Sar couldn’t have just spilled that cross, could he? We looked to the linesman, the referee, the players… anyone to give some clue that the goal hadn’t stood, for whatever reason. But that was desperation. Of course the goal stood and it was, like Ferguson said, an inexplicable mistake.

I’m not going to get on Edwin’s case though because the guy is worth lots of points a season in terms of the saves he makes that he couldn’t be expected to. My heart went out to him as the clock ticked down and he stood on the edge of his box, watching the players down the other end, urging them to score and let him off the hook. It was fairly painful. I love the big guy and it will have been excruciating for him when that final whistle went.

But that is the worst mistake he has ever made by a long way. Trying to scan back, there was that poor use of judgement at Anfield a few years back when he came charging out to push a cross in to Wes which resulted in an own goal. That was pretty dreadful. But the fact it’s so difficult to think of his clangers indicates how rare they are.

Gutted about yesterday, gutted that Van der Sar made that mistake, but it emphasised to me just how far we’ve come… and just how important it is for us to get his replacement right!

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. GoatinaUnitedShirt says:

    I agree with you that the glazers havent helped, but i would also like the blame put at the feet of the players. Last seasons game at Burnley, this year at home to west brom cannot be put at the feet of anyone other than the players being lazy. The chelsea defeats can be blamed on the glazers but last year if it wasnt for a woeful 0-0 against blackburn then the league was ours.

  2. King Eric says:

    How predictable? That old chestnut. Blame phelan. Fergie going fucking senile. Fuck me.

  3. willierednut says:

    Zelh – In terms of our starting eleven, there’s definitely quality, but beyond that, It’s very thin.

  4. Colbert says:

    Who said Fergie is going senile? WHO?!?! (Sorry)

  5. rooney the new king says:

    GoatinaUnitedShirt – the players need a lift, and they need help if any team wants to win trophy’s, squads need strengthened. If I did not maintain my house it would be in ruin, before I went on holiday I needed the roof fixed I left the roof it would only get worse because it was raining badly in september. The glazers cost cutting is really fucking fergie’s plans they done this in tampa. I said this last week, until united see ownership change we are going to get frustrated. I just feel the debt is to much for this club, how can we compete if united are paying record interest, and even try and pay for players when already the price’s are already overpriced we need all the cash we need, not see it lost to debts that we never asked for.

  6. Costas says:

    I’d say that part of the blame(if not most of it) goes to the manager in cases like this. West Brom wasn’t a one off where our players lost their focus. It has happened more than once this season. It’s up to Fergie to set them straight when this happens time and time again. United hadn’t wasted a 2 goal lead in 6 years, and we’ve done it 3 times in the last 2 months.

    I trust Ferguson to get it right, but perhaps he has to do more than what he’s done until now.

  7. rooney the new king says:

    I am not angry anymore I am just frustrated, that a money grabbing soulless family is taking money out of the club at the expense of winning.

  8. Zelh says:

    willierednut – is there a complete starting eleven? I don’t think so. Every game Fergie is changing the midfield and that is a problem for me. With the steady exchange of our central midfielders no routine is going to emerge.
    And imo there’s quality on the bench.

  9. rooney the new king says:

    Costas – well in these rare cases I think the ownership not given funds is to blame.

  10. willierednut says:

    Zelh – Like who?

  11. Costas says:


    Last summer I mentioned that the rebuilding work with our squad wasn’t happening in the manner that it should. And that can be attributed to the financial situation. However, the quality is still there and these players can play better than that. They sure as hell can defend better than that.

  12. King Eric says:

    I mention phelan as wasn’t he number two when we a poor performance in rome and a missed pen and ninety minutes away from a quadruple?

  13. rooney the new king says:

    Costas – it is not and that is the worry, if you do not maintain a house its going to cost more if its not maintained right. I think uniteds midfield not protecting the defence is causing the goals to be leaked. The quality is there but they need help. It is a good squad but it needs more help and at times you got to feel sorry for the players

  14. willierednut says:

    Yeah, the Micky Phelan theory, another scapegoat.

  15. Injury Time says:

    Allright,let’s speculate in coming matches a bit,

    Bursaspor(H) Cancelled due to turkish fans invading le pitch,United win 3-0.

    Stoke(A),what a nugget,hard one,BUT, rumours are that stoke may schock everyone by lining up with ALI DIA in goal!!Stoke win,1-0,sorry, An inconvenient truth

  16. Zelh says:

    willierednut – hernandez is pure quality. O’shea is one of the best backups we have. He plays wherever whenever. Smalling is a great talent and if he’s able to remove the tension he still has, he will be 1rst choice backup for Rio and Vidic.
    Our problem area is the midfield. we have lots of players especially in the center but the quality is lacking due to long term injuries, players who aren’t able to recover their former strenght or just not good enough.

    Ando is having good games after his injury, but was overwhelmed defensively because carrick was invisible the most time.

  17. Zelh says:

    @ Costas

    That’s what I think.
    The problem is not the defensive 4, not the attack. It’s our engine room.
    And that’s why i can’t understand ppl yelling their arses off for people like van der vaart or özil.
    Will they help us to break attacks up and put our opponents under pressure?

    I do not think so.

  18. King Eric says:

    Colbert. Jonoo seven. And middyred. Zehl. Agree. Apart from your comment on carrick and ando. Carrick wasn’t invisible he was sat breaking play up and made a couple of decent challenges on the edge of box. Ando was the liability. He looked immobile yesterday.

  19. willierednut says:

    Zelh – Hernandez is a no brainer really, but O’Shea? I’m talking about young players mate, not established ones. Anderson is an enigma, don’t no what you’ll get from him each game, but I live in hope. The two players that we’ll most definitely need to spend money, to replace is Scholes and Giggs, Sir Alex has already said this a few weeks ago. Smalling is just potential atm, but the signs look good at this present time.

  20. Costas says:


    I don’t see a lot wrong in the final 3rd either. I wanted us to sign Ozil, but in the summer I did say that our priorities should be elsewhere. But then again. after the recent unbalanced displays, I am beginning to wonder if one player would be enough to stir the ship.


    The squad isn’t perfect. That I agree with, even though in numbers it’s quite large. My actual concern is if our current squad is getting the ideal preparation before the games. No, I am not joining the Phelan debate. But it does concern me why the players’ psychology is so fragile and why the defeding(of eash player individually and the team’s) has actually gotten worse as the season has moved on.

  21. Zelh says:

    willierednut – I didn’t know you were talking about young players.
    Of course we have to spend, to replace scholes and giggs and that won’t be cheap.
    But we should not forget that we still have Tony V who had a tremendous season and if he’s in form there’s no way he can’t play.
    Are we going for Bale again? Will be an expensive adventure. And I’m not sure whom to put on the bench.
    I still have the faith in Sir Alex to bring Modric to United. He would be the perfect replacement.

    But Redknapp would be an idiot to let them both go.

  22. willierednut says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned Silva, he scored a cracking goal today ya know.

  23. King Eric says:

    Willie. How very dare you mate? Stealing my word from last night to describe anderson. An enigma! Only messing mate. I have been very harsh on ando but with hindsight I will wait till he has a run of games as we all know I wrote nani off prior to jan and many wrote fletch off. He is still only twenty one or so. Got to keep rooney. A fit rooney and united are a whole different animal. Its that simple. Just need our top players to perform and we will be ok. Still a long way to go. So far we have dropped points by sinply conspiring to fuck up ourtselves. Take our chances yesterday and we would go into half tine five up. Game over. We will sort it.

  24. willierednut says:

    Zelh – We could have signed Bale for 8 million. God knows what he’d cost now. Modric is a player I like a lot, but Spurs won’t sell us any more players after the Berbatov fiasco.

  25. Zelh says:

    Willie – He refused to play for us, because he wanted regular playing time and he wasn’t sure if he’s capable of gaining it at Manchester United.

    Like i said they would be idiots, but they would be the perfect players.

  26. arijc says:

    Silva was my pick for the previous summer as a transfer target. Always thought quality players can play in any league and he is quality.

    According to twitter world, the Rooney-Fergie rift is going to be top news in all the papers tomorrow. So brace yourselves.

  27. mattdubya says:

    ok guardian and telegraph are both “breaking” news about rooney refusing a contract and wanting out and falling out w/ saf.

    IF…IF there’s even a nugget of truth to this stuff and we end up selling him…what’s your best plan?

    i’d assume it’d be to real madrid or barca…rather it be real madrid if we were to get someone back because theyd be more willing to part w/ higuain or benzema than barca would w/ iniesta who is class as fuck…but yea…potentially sad days?

  28. willierednut says:

    King Eric – The Anderson debate will rage on until he finds some sort of form. On our form, I wish I could share your enthusiasm mate, but with another tough game at Stoke, on Saturday, I do wonder if we’re good enough to go there and get a result. As Costas said, we’re so fragile atm, that even if we get the first goal, I’ll still be biting my nails.

  29. Passe_Mouraille says:

    Depressing times friends. When a 2 goal lead seems like nothing you know there is something fundamentally wrong. Is Fergie pushing Rooney for the exit á la Beckham, Ruud etc or is that just what they want us to think? Surely there is something wrong when Rooney claims he is fit and then only gets 20 mins when we have been on the recieving end of some WBA domination (almost) for the whole second half. The only way Rooney will get back is by playing, quite exactly what Ferguson is trying to achieve is beyond me.

    The Fulham draw was hard to take, The Everton one was quite unbelievable, the one against Bolton was deserved as was the one against Sunderland. The draw this weekend felt different, as if one could see it coming watching our players making sillier mistakes by the minute as the game went on. I wasn’t angry when the final whistle went. It was almost expected. I think most of our players feel the same at this moment. They are mentally weak. Even teams playing in leagues much less competitive than the EPL have doctors that work on the mentality of the players. I’m not sure if United go down that route but I would like to know if anything is being done about it.

  30. King Eric says:

    Modric is not the player united need. What is he gonna do to enforce things stop us getting over run and putting a foot in? Nowt. If hargreaves aint gonna make it we need a ball winner. A rodwell type. A tough tackler. I actually like heitinga. We haven’t a problem creating chances.

  31. Zelh says:

    I’m talking about a Scholes replacement and not what we need right now.
    Now we definitly need a defensive midfielder. Will be interesting if ferguson goes for martinez.

  32. Harry says:

    2 Years ago, We would not be panic even if we go 2-0 down, because we knew that the team would somehow come back to win Ex: vs Spurs at OT
    Last year, we believed that the team will atleast came back and draw. Ex: vs Sunderland at OT.
    This year, even if we are leading 2-0, we will still be panic every time opposite team attack..
    Nani is very impressive, but he needs to stop going solo and pass more. Free kicks and Corners are not threats from us anymore.

    I really want to see a team where every player of our team play well. Hopefully, this draw will be a motivation to get our first away win at stoke.

  33. jon0077 says:

    Start of the season ferguson says the squad is “good enough”..we buy chicharito smalling and bebe to add to the squad. 3 young talented players who are not expected to make an impact straight away! Thats 2 forwards and a center half. You and i know that uniteds problems this year would be scholes nd giggs are 35+ carrick gibson and anderson are either desperately low on confidence or just plain not good enough (cant make up my mind) those players would not get on citys chelsea or spurs midfield not one of them when there was talk of gibson and carrick leaving what clubs were mentioned? inter? real? barca? none of them it was fucking stoke and sunderland!! The midfield is where games are won and lost yet mr ferguson says that that lot are good enough?? He says there aint no value in the market no??? ozil, van der vartt, the year before that snijeder and if you think that united dont need a player like that i’ve just mentioned than you too are senile. People on here blaming mike phelan get a fucking grip ferguson hired him.

  34. balaji85 says:

    Manuel Neuer is the obvious choice…we should somehow manage to rope him in…..there could be no arguments against him coming to Old Trafford


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