This week’s Premier League hero is Fulham and Manchester United legend Edwin Van der Sar.
Van der Sar was one of the most consistent and talented goalkeepers ever seen in the Premier League. The Dutch keeper has a fantastic record of 134 clean sheets in 313 Premier League appearances.
The 6ft 5 inch ‘keeper is the most capped player for the Dutch national side ever, but he also enjoyed plenty of success in English football as in the 2008/09 season he broke a world record by not conceding a goal for a whopping 1,311 minutes. In the same season Van der Sar also managed 21 clean sheets in the league, which equalled Petr Cech’s record from the 2004/05 season for most clean sheets.
Van der Sar was voted as the European Goalkeeper of the Year four times (1995/2008/2009/2010) while he was also named UEFA Club Goalkeeper of the Year in 1995 and 2009.
The Dutch ‘keeper also won four Premier League titles (06/07, 07/08, 08/09, 10/11), two league cups (05/06 & 08/09), a Champions League title in 2008 and three Community Shields. The talented keeper was also recognised by the Premier League for his accomplishments as he won the Barclays Golden Glove in 08/09 and was named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year three times (06/07, 08/09, 10/11).
Edwin Van der Sar was born in Voorhut, Netherlands on the 29th of October 1970 and started his football career at his local club Foreholt, before moving on to Noordwijk. Van der Sar slowly progressed in his career and was signed by Dutch giants Ajax in 1990 at the age of 20.
The ‘keeper stayed at Ajax for an incredible nine years but eventually moved on to Italian giants Juventus in 1999 for a transfer fee of five million. Van der Sar was first choice goalkeeper for Juventus until he lost his place to their new signing Gianluigi Buffon in 2001 and he then decided to move on again.
Fulham pulled off one of their greatest transfers ever by signing the highly-rated Edwin Van der Sar for £7.1m in August 2001. The Dutch international was more than happy to sign for the London club as he stated that he felt
“appreciated in a nice and friendly atmosphere” at Craven Cottage.
Van der Sar made his debut for the cottagers on the 18th of August 2001 in a 3-2 loss to future club Manchester United. Van der Sar had a wonderful first season at Fulham as he managed to keep 15 clean sheets in his 37 appearances for his new club.
Van der Sar stayed at Craven Cottage for four seasons, with Fulham finishing 13th, 14th, 9th and 13th while he was there. He had 42 clean sheets in 127 Premier League appearances, which was enough to grab the attention of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Manchester United signed Van der Sar at a bargain price of £2m and he settled in straight away by having 18 clean sheets in 38 appearances in his first season at the club as United finished 2nd in the league. The 2006/07 season was much more successful for United and Van der Sar made 77 saves, 12 clean sheets and 44 clearances as United reclaimed the Premier League title.
He also had a huge part to play in United’s title win as he saved a penalty in the Manchester derby in May 2007, which handed United the title as they won 1-0. Van der Sar was then announced in the PFA Team of the Year.
The Dutch ‘keeper began the 07/08 season on the right foot as he helped United lift the Community Shield by saving three consecutive penalties in the shoot-out as the game ended 1-1 after extra time against Chelsea. Despite his niggling groin injuries, Van der Sar had a wonderful season as he was part of the United team that won the title on the final day and then saved a Nicolas Anelka penalty in the Champions League final shoot-out, which handed United European glory.
Van der Sar’s Premier League statistics were also impressive as he made 72 saves and 15 clean sheets in 29 league appearances.
The 08/09 brought continued success for United and Van der Sar as they lifted the Premier League title again while Van der Sar made a Premier League record by keeping a whopping eleven consecutive clean sheets. Van der Sar then went one better; making a World record by not conceding for 1,311 minutes.
These records made it a given that Van der Sar would be handed the Golden Glove award in the 08/09 season as he made an outstanding 21 clean sheets. As well as his 21 clean sheets, he also made 71 saves and 33 clearances in his 33 league appearances in the 08/09 season.
Unfortunately, Van der Sar missed the first 12 games in all competitions in the 09/10 season due to a finger injury but returned on the 17th of October 2009 in United’s 2-1 win over Bolton. The keeper was hit with another blow as he missed another 12 games in all competitions due to his wife’s illness but eventually returned on the 16th of January 2010 in United’s 3-0 win over Burnley.
Van der Sar still managed 12 clean sheets as United finished 2nd in the league. There was some good news for Van der Sar though as he signed a one year extension with United on the 26th of February 2010. The 10/11 season was a successful one for Van der Sar and United as his 14 clean sheets, 82 saves and 21 clearances in 38 league appearances helped United retain the Premier League title.
The 44-year-old also had some key moments in the season as he had a Man of the Match performance in an FA Cup tie with Arsenal which United won 2-0, while on May 22nd 2011 Van der Sar captained United in his final game at Old Trafford in their 4-2 win over Blackpool, which also relegated the Tangerines.
Van der Sar’s final game for United was their 3-1 loss to Barcelona in the 2011 Champions League final in Wembley Stadium. On the 28th of May 2011, Edwin Van der Sar also officially announced his retirement from professional football.
Sarah Fitzpatrick, Pundit Arena
Featured image By Austin Osuide (Uploaded to Flickr with the name Van TheMan) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons