Manchester United's Ben Foster is considering asking Sir Alex Ferguson for a loan deal to boost his chances of seizing a starting place for England in next summer's World Cup.
Foster has started only one game since Edwin van der Sar's return to the United side in mid-October, was not even on the bench for the trip to Stamford Bridge two weeks ago and, with United's Dutch first-choice goalkeeper showing no signs that he will be dislodged, Foster knows that his hopes of a place in Fabio Capello's squad are now in Ferguson's hands. He wants to rediscover the form as a United loanee at Watford two seasons back which signalled his arrival as a major top-flight prospect.
While Foster seeks an England lifeline, Michael Owen may have received one. The knock Dimitar Berbatov received in United's 2-0 win over Blackburn Rovers on 31 October has exacerbated a fluid on the knee condition, which may require surgery. The striker is with the Bulgarian squad for tomorrow's friendly in Malta and may play a part, and there are hopes he might be nursed through his injury. Either way, this may be the chance of regular starts which Owen has been looking for, though with only three England friendlies before South Africa his time is running out.
Foster's state of despair about his prospects was evident in the aftermath of the 1-0 defeat to Brazil in Doha on Saturday, when he said he had slipped to "third choice" for United. Though he is aware that a loan deal now offers him the best chance of remaining in Capello's plans, he is understood to be conscious that there are limited opportunities within the Premier League. Only perhaps Burnley's Peter Jensen and Hull City's Boaz Myhill look remotely vulnerable to a loan acquisition in January with most clubs in possession of proven goalkeepers. Dropping down to the Championship for game time is not an option, as it would leave Foster below West Ham United's Rob Green and Blackburn's Paul Robinson in the England pecking order.
Hull, who are preparing for a major clear-out in January to reduce their wage bill, received striker Fraizer Campbell on loan from United two seasons ago, and Foster proved in Watford's 2006-07 campaign what an asset he can be for a side fighting the drop – even though Aidy Boothroyd's side were relegated that year.
Despite Foster's obvious anxieties about how he is to convince Capello of his worth, Ferguson will take considerable persuading to let him leave Old Trafford. The manager suggested two weeks ago that a loan deal for Foster was not under consideration. "The future [at United] belongs to Ben, of course," Ferguson said. "Tomasz Kuszczak is a good keeper too, so we are quite strong. But Ben will not be allowed out on loan in January. No way."
Kuszczak is also unhappy about the struggle to achieve a first-team place at Old Trafford and suggested two weeks ago that the time might be near for him to seek pastures new. "I try every day. It's a slow process," he said last week. But the Polish keeper was preferred to Foster for United's recent Champions League match with CSKA Moscow at Old Trafford and even Foster's place on the bench for the 2-0 win at Anfield seemed to owe something to Kuszczak's absence attending the birth of his child. The Englishman faces the prospect of relying on the Carling Cup and FA Cup after Christmas.
Though Ferguson suggested last season that the two reserve keepers would come to challenge Van der Sar more in this campaign, the jitters and poor communication at the back while Foster deputised for eight games have made the Dutchman's position seem unassailable. His contract at Old Trafford expires at the end of the season, but the player himself will be allowed to choose when he retires. There is all the more frustration for Foster, considering that the problems David James is experiencing with his shoulder might provide a heaven-sent opportunity to the 26-year-old.Reuse content