Manchester United can blame a number of problems for their mediocre form this season – poor finishing from lacklustre strikers (Wayne Rooney excluded), many defensive injuries and, maybe most importantly, the lack of a top goalkeeper. Edwin Van der Sar has spent most of the season out injured and that has given first team opportunities to his deputies Ben Foster and Tomasz Kuszczak; but rather than being a chance to shine this time has shown that the two cannot handle being first choice at the club and it’s no surprise United are often linked with a move for a top ‘keeper as Van der Sar’s long term replacement.
Foster has fallen a long way from grace; when he was signed from Stoke he was supposed to be the next big thing. And it certainly looked like things would go that way as he excelled on loan for Watford in both the Championship and the Premiership and even became an England international. He then began to make the odd performance for United and looked pretty good, although first team runs weren’t on the cards. A bad injury halted Foster’s progression but he returned and looked set to be United’s second choice ‘keeper ahead of Kuszczak.
Things have worsened for Foster though – he started this season as first choice with Van der Sar injured but mistakes from the first game have shown him up. Every team that threatened the United goal seems to have found a way past Foster with him committing errors in the bigger games – including against Manchester City and Arsenal. This has resulted to him being dropped from United’s first team following another mistake against Sunderland and Kuszczak’s been preferred since with young Ben Amos preferred on the bench to Foster. With Van der Sar now back there’s surely no place in the first team for Foster and speculation that he would go on to be United’s first choice ‘keeper – suggested in the past by the likes of Alex Ferguson and Adrian Boothroyd – seems wide of the mark, it would be no surprise to see Foster leave the club.
As for Kuszscak; his signing puzzled me as he had spent three years with lowly West Brom and had only been first team regular for them for one of those years, why did United want him? It was always clear that Kuszczak wasn’t going to be first choice at Old Trafford yet the Polish goalie believes in his ability to do so. He, like Foster, impressed in early appearances for United but, also like Foster, his form has worsened and thus he was dropped to third choice when Foster became available in 2008. Foster’s poor form allowed him back into the first team but Kuszczak looked far from reassuring and it looks pretty certain that he is not the future for United either. Like Foster he’ll now play rarely (if at all) since Van der Sar is back.
Both goalkeepers have had a chance to prove themselves as genuine contenders for the first team spot with Van der Sar out but neither have impressed – with Foster particularly unimpressive. Van der Sar is surely coming to the end of his career and United will need a replacement – it’s pretty clear that neither Foster nor Kuszczak is good enough to be that man and thus the links with Hugo Lloris, Manuel Neuer and so on will continue. But in times of injuries (like they’ve faced this year) United will need to know they have a safe pair of hands waiting in the wings to replace their first choice. These two don’t look that reassuring – so maybe United should be on the lookout for a new deputy as well, these two can rebuild their careers elsewhere.
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