Van der Sar hails Man Utd's spirit

Published April 7th, 2013 - 09:28 GMT

Former Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar has hailed what he terms “the United spirit” as the English giants close in on a record 20th English league title.

The Dutchman points to the blend of youth and experience within the squad at Old Trafford as a reason for continued success.

“Manchester United have got a good mixture of players within the team. There have the likes of [Ryan] Giggs, [Paul] Scholes and [Rio] Ferdinand combining with exciting talent like [Wayne] Rooney and [Robin] Van Persie, Nani, [Antonio] Valencia and [Patrice] Evra. Just look around and you have quality players all over the team and that is what a club needs to perform,” Van der Sar told Gulf News.

The 42-year-old former Dutch international was in Dubai over the weekend to open Goal! Junior, the Dubai Mall’s football recreation area for children.

“In addition, the manager [Sir Alex Ferguson] has been there for 26 years and he is part of history that is happening at Manchester United,” he added.

“The way the club plays now they are bound to land with trophies. There is a blueprint that they have put in place for the whole club and that includes developing young players and combining it with players they can buy from other clubs to make it a successful entity. This is the United way.”

Last weekend, United stretched their unbeaten run in the English Premier League to 18 matches as an own goal from Titus Bramble saw them beat Sunderland 1-0. They are now 15 points clear of rivals and defending champions Manchester City, who they face in a derby on Monday.

Van der Sar believes that much of United’s success over the past two decades boils down to Ferguson’s leadership and handling of affairs at Old Trafford.

“It’s the manager who makes so much difference. He is the boss and he is responsible for the way the club goes forward and he assumes the responsibility for anything that happens to make the club tick. A lot of people want to copy what Manchester United have, but only one [Ferguson] can be the first one,” Van der Sar said.

“Given all these conditions, another title should not be any problem for a club like Manchester United.”

Van de Sar retired from playing two years ago and his position at United has been taken by Spaniard David de Gea. The young goalkeeper has had his ups and downs since his move from Atletico Madrid, but Van der Sar believes he has now proved his worth.

“He [de Gea] has done well so far this season and it will be great for his confidence to have a champion’s medal around his neck,” he said.

Though disappointed that United were knocked out relatively early in the European Champions League — after a last-16 exit to Real Madrid — Van der Sar felt that the team would come out stronger for the experience. “All teams go through such an experience. Real Madrid went out of the Champions League last year and this season they are nearly in the semi-finals,” he said.

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