Another week and two more reality checks in the difficult footballing life of Ben Foster. If Wednesday's baptism of fire at Celtic Park was not challenge enough, the Manchester United keeper discovered before it that his manager believes Edwin van der Sar, the 38-year-old ahead of him in the pecking order, has yet another year at the top in him.
Foster, a player taught the hard realities of the profession when he needed cruciate surgery weeks after returning from two excellent loan seasons at Watford in June 2007, appears to have been persuaded that he has a United future during a meeting with Sir Alex Ferguson last week which has taught him that there have been "plenty of players in the past who maybe have jumped ship too early".
Foster is hardly in the first slip of youth at the age of 25, having joined United from Stoke City three years ago, and there was a sense of the frustrations he has been feeling yesterday. "I felt that [seeing the manager] was something I needed to do," Foster said. "When you are training all week and there is nothing for you at the end of the week it is disappointing. I need to show them what I can do and I need to push on in the first team here and get back in the England team."
Ferguson has said repeatedly he considers Foster to be England's best young prospect and it will be the player's hope that he can step above the Polish keeper Tomasz Kuszczak in the pecking order. Though Kuszczak appeared 11 times for United last season, the error which saw him dismissed in March's FA Cup exit at Portsmouth's hands has not been the only sign of fallibility. Wednesday was the first time Foster has played when Kuszczak was available.
There are easier places for a player to prove himself than Glasgow and though Foster cannot take the blame for Scott McDonald's sublime lobbed goal – it was the high trajectory he found rather than the distance Foster stood from his line which was crucial – there were times during Celtic's opening half-hour when he looked less than comfortable. The game, Foster said, had whetted his appetite. "The last 18 months have been a massive frustration for me [but] I'm only 25 and I've got to give it a go," he said.
Results: Celtic 0 AaB Aalborg 0; Manchester Utd 0 Villarreal 0; AaB Aalborg 0 Manchester Utd 3; Villarreal 1 Celtic 0; Manchester Utd 3 Celtic 0; Villarreal 6 AaB Aalborg 3; Aab Aalborg 2 Villarreal 2; Celtic 1 Manchester Utd 1.
Remaining group stage fixtures: Celtic: 25 Nov: AaB Aalborg (a); 10 Dec: Villarreal (h). Manchester United: 25 Nov: Villarreal (a); 10 Dec: AaB Aalborg (h).Reuse content