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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

United fans have now forgiven me

Cristiano Ronaldo believes he has been forgiven by Manchester United fans for trying to quit the club. The Portuguese superstar did all he could to engineer a move to Real Madrid this summer. Yet United boss Alex Ferguson stood firm and there has been a very mixed reaction to his return – although not in the player’s eyes. Ronaldo said: “In the game when I came back against Villarreal I wasn’t nervous but just a bit excited to see how the fans would react to me. Thank God things went well. This shows people have not forgotten all the good things we’ve done together and I’m very happy with that.” Ronaldo has still to win over many hardcore Red Devils fans. But he believes they will come round if he can repeat last season’s feat of 42 goals as United claimed both the Premier League and Champions League titles. “Things are going pretty well. I’d love a repeat of last season and continue to show some good progression.”
Neil Custis, The Sun

Finding Edwin's heir

Edwin van der Sar equalled Peter Schmeichel’s 129 international caps when he came out of retirement to face Iceland on Saturday. It’s a feat that reminds United’s goalkeeping coach Eric Steele that replacing the Dutchman will be as difficult a task as it was trying to find the great Dane’s successor.

Van der Sar, who turns 38 at the end of this month, has a contract that runs until next summer. He plans to decide on his future beyond that date by the turn of the year.

The Dutchman has been a steadying influence on United since arriving from Fulham in 2005. Steele hopes Edwin can carry on heading up the Reds’ last line of defence, but says the challenge has been set for the likes of Ben Foster and Tomasz Kuszczak.

"Edwin has gone public with the message that this is his last year, but with a view to looking at it and reviewing the position at Christmas. So we have to be prepared for if and when that happens," said Steele.

"Edwin is a very, very experienced goalkeeper. He has been one of the finest in the world in terms of the sweeper-keeper role that this club needs.”

Steele worked with Schmeichel during his time as a coach at Villa Park, and he says the Dane’s rating as most people's best-ever goalkeeper is fully justified.

“It was tough getting someone in to fill Schmeichel's boots, and Edwin's boots are going to be big to fill,” he told the Manchester Evening News. “He will now be remembered for the famous save in the shoot-out in the Champions League final but I think it had been noted by the game’s purists that he was one of the finest in terms of playing out from the back.

“He has been, and still is, one of the best. It’s a joy having viewed him from a distance to now work with him. He has raised the bar. But when the time comes that Sir Alex says, ‘who is going to replace Edwin?' I have to have an answer and reasons for the answer.

"My job is to give the manager as many options as I can,” he added. “That is what we are trying to do. We have to get all the goalkeepers fit and competing and throw the gauntlet down to Tomasz Kuszczak and Ben Foster and ask, ‘who is going to become our no.1.

"This is the time for Tomasz and Ben. This is what they were brought here for. They are both back from injury. Both are fully fit now to accept the challenge and Edwin knows it is there."