'I couldn't fill van der Sar's boots'
Former Manchester United goalkeeper Ben Foster has reflected on his five-year stint at the club during the latest episode of the UTD Podcast.
The 38-year-old started his career at Racing Club Warwick, before spending four years at Stoke City, where he was sent out on loan each season.
After impressing while on loan at Wrexham, Sir Alex Ferguson brought Foster to Old Trafford, and the former England international accumulated 12 Premier League appearances for the Reds between 2005 and 2010.
Foster spent his first two years at United out on loan at Watford, the club where he now plies his trade, following spells at Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion.
As you will hear when you listen to Foster's episode of the UTD Podcast - available now in the United App – he shares his experience of training with Edwin van der Sar, and opens up about the pressures of playing for a club like United.
“I trained with Edwin quite a bit, to be honest. I’ve got to say, Edwin, what a guy. Honestly, not even as a footballer, just a bloke, [he’s] an absolute role model. How he carried himself, he just was in control of absolutely everything.
“He was so good at being able to talk to people and put them at ease and all that kind of stuff, and he was so good for me, so helpful at just showing me stuff. [He showed] what to do in what situation so yeah, I loved him to bits.
“As a goalkeeper, my gosh, my gosh. Edwin was like 35 when he signed for United, and I think, for those four or five years when he was there, I don’t think there was a better goalie in the world that could have done for Manchester United what Edwin did for Man United. He was outrageous, honestly outrageous.”
After two loan spells at Watford between 2005 and 2007, Foster became part of United’s first team and was battling with van der Sar to be the Reds’ number one.
Foster revealed that the pressure to reach the standards of the legendary Dutchman ultimately led to his decision to leave the club.
“I was so nervous; I couldn’t beat it. I knew I couldn’t do what that guy could do so always, in the back of my mind, I’m thinking that everybody’s just going to go: ‘well, you can’t fill his boots.’
“They were right. They’ve got to be right because [he’s] one of the best goalies to have done it. I always had that in the back of my mind.
“Towards the end of the season when I actually left, it got to a point where I just thought: ‘I need to go now. I can’t stay in the shadow of Edwin van der Sar because I just can’t do what that guy can do.”
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Twelve years have passed since Foster decided to leave the Reds, and the veteran still plays Premier League football every week, establishing himself as a model professional in the process.Now an experienced player at the highest level, Foster is able to look back philosophy on his time at United.
“I think because [van der Sar] was so much older, when I left, I think he was 37 or 38, he knew how to deal with being a Man United player," added Foster. "He was world class.
“He knew how to deal with being a Man United player and dealing with the pressure, the expectation. I did not know how to do that, nobody had ever showed me or taught me how to do that.
“People show you how to play football, but they can’t ever show you or expose you to that level of scrutiny and pressure until you’re there in that moment.”
What could have been? Ben Foster has had a successful career at numerous clubs, but who knows what could have happened if he’d stayed at the club…
Listen to the Ben Foster podcast now in the United App.