At the end of the 2010-2011 campaign for Manchester United, a couple of key events occurred that placed Manchester United into a ‘keeper paradox. One was a not so smoothly executed farewell speech by then goal tender Edwin van der Sar.
During his speech he lamented the fact that, “he wish he could have been their sooner,” I’m paraphrasing.
Edwin van der Sar’s remarks, whether he knew it or not, exposed the obvious past mistakes with the goal keeper position including the very public failure to sign van der Sar when he was available in 2000-2001. In replacing Peter Schmeichel, Fabian Barthez, Tim Howard, Roy Carroll, Ricardo Lopez Felipe all proved to be unworthy. Until van der Sar was signed, United went through a visible low period.
The second event has been the success of Tim Howard at Everton. Perhaps if Tim Howard were given time at United to adjust, even keeping him there as a back-up to van der Sar, would have ultimately proven to be wise.
With the current position oscillating between David De Gea and Anders Lindegaard, who is United’s number one is clearly a toss-up. As rumblings of high profile signing, David De Gea’s unhappiness with life in England continue to surface, Lindegaard hasn’t proven to be equal to task either. Although I feel both players have quality, it may have been proven to be at a level less than United requires to compete with the elite in Europe.
Meanwhile, Tim Howard is recognized across the BPL as one of the top net minders in England, reaching milestones for the Blues and providing an equal quality in international play as well. World Cups, domestic cup finals, European competition … there isn’t much the American hasn’t seen and one wonders whether Ferguson has been watching and repressing the urge to wonder, “what if?”
To ask ‘what if?’, however, could be seen as academic, after all, if Tim Howard had stayed with United his career would not have blossomed as it has. But I don’t think there is any mistake in saying that Tim Howard is better than any goalkeeper Manchester United currently has now. AND, Tim Howard is only 33, still in his prime as a goal keeper as he may even have a good ten years left to play.
While Sir Alex Ferguson may not want to make the same mistake with David De Gea, and may elect to keep the Spaniard to allow him to grow; the existence of a ‘keeper paradox is evident.
If Sir Alex Ferguson keeps De Gea, as he is clearly the better option of the two young goalies, he will have to accept the growing pains while maintaining a positive environment while De Gea continues his baptism of fire.
But if he signs a more veteran, established goal keeper, De Gea will be limited and will not get to play as often as he could with another club. Even if De Gea moves to Real Madrid, as has been rumored, his playing options will be less but behind a legend in Iker Casillas. So a move could be seen as worth the opportunity to go home to more familiar surroundings and to a much bigger club. The same cannot be said about the situation at Manchester United, as big as they want you to believe they are.
So the paradox is thus: if De Gea stays, United may not be able to compete with the elite in Europe …. if United sign a more established, veteran – up to the task ‘keeper – De Gea will most likely leave but United may be able to retain it’s elite status.
So the question then becomes, “should United sign a more proven goal keeper and should that be Tim Howard?” The answer is YES, and hears why. As I stated before, Tim Howard is still only 33, but he is also clearly one of the best goal keepers in England. He may not be the most accomplished but for his age, it is only because he is at Everton, no offense.
Tim Howard is also familiar with Manchester United, after playing there, whether his time was good or bad, the experience and the knowledge will serve him well. Also, Howard is more accomplished internationally with his World Cup appearances and with valuable experience in Europe on top of that. You can’t say he is ignorant to the fire.
Perhaps De Gea just wasn’t the right move, but signing Tim Howard and forcing De Gea to leave, will allow Ferguson some breathing room to wisely pick among a crop of emerging young talent at the ‘keeper position. A crop of young talented ‘keepers groomed behind a Tim Howard for the next five years will ensure there is no lapse in performance between the sticks for United.
Even if De Gea stays, you still get the best of both worlds.
I think Tim Howard would be up to the task, he appears to be more knowledgeable, more philosophical and generally consistent with his performances. When the US met England in group play for the World Cup in South Africa, it didn’t seem out of place that Tim Howard was in goal for the US, but it did seem out of place for Roy Carroll to be there for England.
So Tim Howard should be considered based on the evidence I presented but also because United fans will see the logic, and after seeing what he has done wearing blue for so long, might even welcome it.