Lindegaard dismisses his doubters and aims for the No 1 spot at Old Trafford

Dane with reputation for telling it straight believes keeper's jersey is still up for grabs after his Benfica display, writes Ian Herbert
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The Independent Online

It was Gary Neville who recently put his finger on what it takes to survive as a goalkeeper at Old Trafford. "At a club like Manchester United you need a goalkeeper who doesn't have insecurities," he said. "By that I mean a keeper who can stand around for half an hour and not feel like he has to prove himself. There is nothing more dangerous than a goalkeeper anxious to get involved."

Anders Lindegaard's ability to mill around for United remains relatively untested after a frenetic night in Lisbon's Estadio da Luz but the 27-year-old displayed anything but insecurity in the discussion that followed his performance. His fluent, slightly crazy English includes a penchant for unusual expressions. He keeps insisting that he is not at Old Trafford to pick his nose, for instance, and while it is encouraging to hear a footballer express positive feelings for his sport, the repeated assertion that Lindegaard finds the sport "amusing and fun" is unexpected. But buried within the words that suggest he will be as colourful as his compatriot Peter Schmeichel if he does assume the profile associated with the No 1 position, was a hard-nosed assertion, before he headed for Lisbon Airport: that £18.5m signing David de Gea (right) does not have the same claim on the jersey that Edwin van der Sar did.

"It is not as clear as it was last year – who is first and who is second," Lindegaard said. "I guess my opinion in those matters does not really matter. That is not interesting for anyone else but you guys [the press] if you want to create some disturbance in it all. I accept the manager's choice every time... [But] do you expect me to say I'm happy to be No 2? That's not how it is. I am here because I want to be No 1. If you are good enough you're going to play – it's as simple as that. I do as well as I can when I get the chances and in the end if I am good enough I am going to be No 1."

Those who have watched the Danish goalkeeper's slow-burning career in Denmark and Norway are not surprised by his willingness to tell it straight. Before Denmark played Norway in a Euro 2012 qualifier this month, Lindegaard laid into his own compatriots, claiming the Danish people were arrogant in their belief that they would be the better side. Then, when a dismal Norway lost the game 2-0, he ploughed into the Norwegians, accusing Egil Olsen's side of being "rubbish" and "an embarrassment".

These were echoes of earlier pronouncements. When the Danish side Odense signed Roy Carroll from Derby County in 2009, forcing Lindegaard to look for new pastures at Norwegian side Aalesund, he made no secret of his fury with the club where he had played since school days. "One reason [for the decision] was that Odense has a history of playing old players and not giving young players a shot," he reflected this summer. "I was very angry with the people who didn't believe in me and the people making that decision. Because of the way I have made my way since then I feel as though I have had my revenge."

To be fair to Lindegaard, he has tended to disprove his many doubters. There was general mirth in Denmark when he said he should be considered for the national team – while playing in a Norwegian league the Danes considered inferior to their own – but he made it. He was considered the best keeper in the Norwegian league, frequently busy in a weak Aalesund side, before Sir Alex Ferguson secured a £3.5m deal for him in January – a move which Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is believed to have helped smooth. Norwegian observers purr about Lindegaard's athleticism, and his good feet, which often saw him help build moves from the back at Aalesund. In pre-season he was United's best goalkeeper.

But for all that confidence, it is the vast gulf in experience of high-pressure matches between Lindegaard and De Gea that makes Ferguson's decision to omit the latter for Benfica an irrelevance because De Gea is definitely the man with the top spot to lose.