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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Red Perspective on our goalie situation

RN contributor Mojo writes each month for the mag and here he looks at the goalie situation, which we have reproduced here to entice you into giving the mag a go...!

And next……auditions now available to be United’s number one.

As our goalkeeper, Massimo Taibi, knelt down to field a soft long range effort from Southampton’s Matthew le Tissier, all eyes in the crowd moved upfield in anticipation of another united attack starting. However, a sudden intake of breath from sections behind the goal brought our focus back towards the hapless Italian. I held my head in my hands in total disbelief as I watched the ball’s slow, agonising yet unstoppable trickle towards then over our goal line. Massimo stared at his studs and picked off some turf as he looked to blame the pitch. The game ended drawn while we should have won. All talk in the media was about our blundering liability between the posts. This was a mistake too far and one that had to break any remaining confidence in him as a realistic successor to the great Dane. A week later he did not impress while helping Chelsea score five. The warning signs had been evident during Taibi’s victorious debut at Anfield. Good impressions created by decent one on one saves in front of the kop had to be reigned in by a calamitous attempt to gather a cross which gifted the opposition a goal.

Confidence and self belief are key essentials for any player, but even more so for goalkeepers. They can not hide like an outfield player and any error is magnified by its often instant impact. Ben Foster has suffered from a series of errors this year that started pre season when he made a similar mistake to the one that gifted City their first goal. As one mistake has followed another such errors no longer look like one off accidents, but instead are just the norm.

Some goalkeepers have so much self belief to go alongside their ability that they will always bounce back from any dip in form. Peter Schmeichel’s future was never in doubt. He suffered from a 5 goal demolition at Newcastle which included a lob by Albert for the fifth, and 6 conceded at Southampton. Even a poor kick to gift Barnsley an FA cup lead at Old Trafford never dented his confidence. We always knew that he would soon be making match winning star shaped leaps of bravery as opposition forwards looked on in puzzlement as he defied them.

Some great keepers do lose the plot though. Fabien Barthez had a mixed career at United. Although he won medals and made great saves that proved crucial, he also became error prone. He did come back from famous mistakes such as his salute while Di Cannio played on or his gifts to a laughing Henry that turned a hard fought draw into an embarrassing defeat at Highbury. But his invincibility was gone. I felt he was liable to make a key mistake and the fact that Fergie replaced him with an average Roy Carroll shows confidence in him was lost.

If Van der Sar makes a welcome return from injury it will help to remove the spotlight from the now doubted Ben Foster. Foster needs to summon great mental strength and show a spark of self belief. He has played well in the past – derby away, spurs at Wembley, Arse at home in the second half– but now it all comes down to self belief. Can he recover from his poor decision making? His discomfort in games this year has been alarming and must effect not only our confidence as a cross comes over but also that of his fellow defenders. I have the gift of hindsight now but I want to see our goalkeeper bulldoze anybody in his way. He should have put Tevez and the ball out of play with one kick instead of attempting to play football in such a dangerous area. Equally, I wanted him to put Kenwyne Jones on his arse while punching the ball clear. So can Foster learn from his experience and use it to come back stronger? Will he show the character of Les Sealey or the calamity of Jim Leighton?

Foster either has the mental strength to fight back or doesn’t. He needs extreme confidence which he has not yet displayed in abundance - and inside the club they must already know the answer to this. Was it a good idea for Ferguson to say he would be England’s no 1 for the next 10 years if he does have brittle belief? Foster has not helped his cause to be the long term answer when Edwin retires. I hope that we do not have to go through another shaky transition looking for the successor with false pretenders such as Mark Bosnich or Tim Howard.



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