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Stekelenburg Looking Like Most Likely Replacement

From The Times:

René Meulensteen, the Manchester United first-team coach, has revealed that Maarten Stekelenburg is the club’s first-choice target to replace Edwin van der Sar in goal next season.

Van der Sar, 40, announced this week that he will retire at the end of the season and United have identified Stekelenburg, the Ajax goalkeeper and Van der Sar’s successor in the Holland team, as the man Sir Alex Ferguson believes is best suited to fill the huge void that Van der Sar will leave.

Stekelenburg, 28, will have only a year remaining on his existing contract with Ajax in the summer, which significantly reduces the Dutch club’s capacity to demand a large transfer fee. 

“Stekelenburg is indeed the ’keeper who is at the top of our wanted list,” Meulensteen said. “We naturally talk a lot among ourselves about who should replace Van der Sar. Alex Ferguson has spoken about Stekelenburg with Edwin and that does not seem strange to me at all.”

A towering presence at 6ft 6in, Stekelenburg joined Ajax as a 15-year-old and has gone on to make 236 senior appearances for the club where Van der Sar spent nine years of his career. Stekelenburg has been Holland’s first-choice goalkeeper since Van der Sar’s retirement from international football in 2008 and was part of the team beaten 1-0 by Spain in the World Cup final in Johannesburg last July.

Eric Steele, United’s goalkeeping coach, said this week that the club had a “nice one, two, three” of targets. Manuel Neuer, the Schalke and Germany goalkeeper, and David de Gea, the At

lético Madrid and Spain Under-21 goalkeeper, are thought to have been the other names under consideration, although Mike Phelan, the United assistant manager, revealed yesterday that the club have also been tracking Rui Patricio, 22, the Sporting Lisbon and Portugal goalkeeper.

United have close ties with Sporting, from whom they signed Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani, the wingers.

“He’s a young ’keeper with enormous potential — we’ve known Rui Patricio for a long time and we’ve also played against him a few times,” Phelan said. “The only thing I can confirm is that we haven’t made any offer.”

Personally I’m quite surprised. I’d have thought that Neuer and de Gea would have been the top two we’re after, just take Guillem Balague’s analysis of the latter:

“The 20 year old Atletico keeper was a UEFA European Under-17 Championship winner with Spain in 2007, and has now established himself as his club’s No1 after breaking into the side last season and impressing with some assured and commanding performances. He has great reflexes and is a fine shot-stopper  – but it his cool temperament that is what really stands out in such a young keeper. “This boy is as cold as a wolf,” was how the Atlético goalkeeping coach described him and the concrete interest from Manchester United and his possible move to the Premier would certainly improve his all round game.”

But given United’s precarious financial position (thanks to the Glazer’s) it does make sense to go after a player who only has one year left on his contract. The football transfer market has a history of undervaluing goalkeepers (Reina, Cech, and of course, Schmeichel), and so if the player is available at an under-valued price it would make sense to take advantage of it. And surely you don’t get to the World Cup final with Stevie Wonder between the sticks?

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