Monday, 25 July 2011

Why Fergie is taking a crazy keeper gamble

The words shook me to my bones. Surely that wily old fox Sir Alex Ferguson was not taking this kind of gamble.

Surely he was not falling into the Arsenal trap. Please God, the blind spot that haunted him for six long years has not redeveloped.

But it appears so, because Ferguson is once again going into a season without a reliable pair of hands between the sticks.

Has he forgotten Massimo Taibi? Has the Mark Bosnich balls up been wiped from his mind? Can he not remember Ricardo or even our very own Roy Carroll?

He can’t have, so why he has thrown United into defensive disarray. Ferguson admitted on United’s US tour this week that his £20m new signing David De Gea might not even start the season as number one.

He said: ``De Gea is 20 years of age. He’s young and he’s played in the Spanish league for a couple of years but it’s not the English league. I think he will need time to settle. The potential is enormous, it’s absolutely unbelievable,  and he’ll improve himself.

``I’ve got the boy Anders Lindegaard, too. They may both challenge for  it but in time the boy De Gea will be in position to take the No 1 shirt, there’s no doubt about that.’’

Anders Lindegaard? Anders, blooming, Lindegaard. Is Ferguson really thinking of kicking off the Community Shield with the Danish kid in nets?

He has played in two competitive games for the Reds - against Southampton and Crawley. Hardly the kind of preparation you need to face the pressure of facing Chelsea at Old Trafford on September 18.

True, he may have played a few times for Denmark, but games against Cyprus and Iceland are not a true test of his ability to face up to heavyweight strike forces of the Premier League.

Lindegaard certainly will not be instilling fear into Robin Van Persie or Didier Drogba when they bear down on goal.

Even mentioning Lindegaard getting a run of games at Manchester United seems like crazy talk. But it points to Ferguson’s worries that De Gea is not up to the task yet.

And that takes us back to Arsenal. Ferguson appears to be following Arsene Wenger’s folly of asking a boy to do a man’s job. It has cost the Gunners dear. No trophies for six years is the price they have had to pay.

Teams simply can’t win without a strong spine in the team, starting with the keeper. Look at United with first Peter Schmeichel and then Edwin van der Sar between the sticks. The keeper looked unbeatable and so did the team.

De Gea may yet spend a decade as United’s custodian, but with Ferguson relying on a such a young team next term he really needed an old head in goal.

That’s why letting Shay Given head down the M6 to Aston Villa for a paltry sum of £6m was negligent. The Irish keeper is bursting to put his wasted year at City behind him. He would have given United a couple of good seasons as De Gea learned to deal with the pressure that comes of playing at Old Trafford and nowhere else.

Now De Gea faces the daunting task of replacing van der Sar with only Lindegaard to lean on. Risky business? I think so.

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