Sir Alex Ferguson has been in this position before: How do you replace one of the best goalkeepers in the world? If we’re honest, the last time the Manchester United manager embarked on such a search, we ended up with the likes of Massimo Taibi in the Premier League. But as current keeper Edwin van der Sar is preparing to hang up his gloves, a whole host of world-class keepers are now being linked with a move to Old Trafford. But is it all unnecessary? Have they already got their next number one in place?
Tomasz Kuszczak certainly thinks so. The Polish shot-stopper has waiting patiently for his chance and is now making all the noises possible to ensure he does not go unnoticed. But is he really worthy of a stab at being Edwin van der Sar’s successor? He doesn’t fill fans with the greatest of confidence whenever he deputises, but in the little run of games he has had since van der Sar’s illness, he has performed without fault and does deserve to be considered at least.
The problem Kuszczak faces though is that he doesn’t seem typical of the type of goalkeeper Ferguson is used to having. Peter Schmeichel and Edwin van der Sar both have an aura of calmness about them which in turn offers great amounts of reassurance to their defence. Both also could distribute a ball better than some Premier League outfield players. The success of Manchester United over the past decade has been based on a strong back-line who has the ability to turn defence into attack in seconds. Kuszczak doesn’t have any of these attributes.
The Pole is a fantastic shot-stopper, as proved against Liverpool in the FA cup where he acrobatically kept out Fabio Aurelio’s free kick. But at Old Trafford, that alone just isn’t enough. Just ask Ben Foster. You have to have a certain temperament to be a success in the sticks at United. Many top quality keepers have failed to hold down the number one jersey because of the pressure that comes along with it and you have to question whether Kuszczak has the capabilities to handle the job.
If you believe what you read in the tabloids, Ferguson is still very much in the hunt for a new number one, despite recently signing the Dane, Anders Lindergaard. This obviously doesn’t bode well for Poland’s number one who has said he is prepared to look elsewhere for first team football should he get over-looked.
His threat to leave however should be a concern to Alex Ferguson. Even if he doesn’t consider him good enough to become United’s first choice goalkeeper, he is an excellent deputy to have, which all top clubs need. Many of Europe’s top clubs will already be alerted to the fact that he may soon be looking for a move out of Old Trafford.
It’s certainly a dilemma for the 69-year-old manager. How do you keep your reserve goalkeeper happy when he wants to play first team football? You have to trust him. You trust him to back up his claims he can be everything United need and more. The question is can he really do it? It doesn’t looks as though Ferguson believes he can so we may well be seeing another new shot-stopper at Old Trafford this summer, unless Kuszczak can change people’s minds. His time is ticking…