Lindegaard dismisses doubters and targets No 1 spot at Old Trafford

Colourful Danish keeper in bullish mood after Benfica display, writes Ian Herbert
Click to follow
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. It makes him rash, reckless."

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 certain unusual expressions. He keeps insisting that he is not at Old Trafford to pick his nose, for instance, and while it is always 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 riot of words which 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 late on Wednesday: that £18.5m signing David de Gea 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 rather 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 early this month, Lindegaard first 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 I was very angry with 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. When I go to sleep at night and I think about that I catch myself with a little smile on my lips."

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 Gunar 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. Lindegaard has been stung by Schmeichel's suggestions that he was not good enough to play for the club that tried Tony Coton, Raimond van der Gouw, Massimo Taibi, Mark Bosnich, Fabien Barthez, Carroll, Ricardo and Tim Howard after the Dane left, before settling for Van der Sar. Yet Schmeichel's assertion was a fairly obvious one, based on Lindegaard's mere 50-odd games in Norway. Another compatriot, Thomas Sorensen, who recommended him to his own club, Stoke City, three years ago, was also surprised by United's move for a player of such little experience.

Lindegaard shrugged off Ferguson's declaration that De Gea would be back for Chelsea on Sunday though the mysterious circumstances surrounding the manager's decision not to give the Dane the nod at Bolton Wanderers last Saturday suggests he is knocking on the door. It had been thought that De Gea's vulnerability to the physical threat had persuaded Ferguson to select Lindegaard but he stuck with the Spaniard when rumours of his possible swap leaked out. "I won't comment on that, no I won't comment," Lindegaard said.

" Of course, I want to play the big games, which are the fun games. Whoever is playing on Sunday, or whatever the manager says, I just have to work with the impressions from tonight and start again." A breakthrough may be a little time coming, but where the Gary Neville goalkeeping measure is concerned, it seems to be on the way.

Unhappy glove story: Peter was great but there have been some duffers

Hits:

Peter Schmeichel, appearances 398 (1991-99) Bargain of the 20th Century when United signed him for £530,000 from Brondby. Widely regarded as one of the greatest keepers of all time, his exit in 1999 left a hole that Ferguson struggled to fill.



Edwin van der Sar, appearances 266 (2005-11) Drafted in from Fulham aged 34, Van der Sar went on to win four Premier League medals, a League Cup medal and saved Nicolas Anelka's penalty in the Champions League final.



Misses:

Gary Bailey, appearances 375 (1978-87) Bailey spent most of Ferguson's debut season injured and soon retired.



Chris Turner, appearances 79 (1985-88) Returned to haunt United by helping Sheffield Wednesday beat them in the League Cup final in 1991.



Gary Walsh, appearances 63 (1985-95) Talented young keeper who was made first choice in the 1987-88 season. Series of injuries, and Schmeichel's arrival, saw his opportunities limited.



Jim Leighton, appearances 94 (1988-91) Ferguson's first choice at Aberdeen and kept 14 clean sheets in his first season at Old Trafford but confidence soon faded. Dropped for the 1990 FA Cup final replay and never recovered.



Mark Bosnich, appearances 38 (1989-91, '99-2001) The Australian was the first replacement for Schmeichel in 1999 and had a good opening season after rejoining from Aston Villa but proved erratic.

Les Sealey, appearances 56 (1990-91, '93-94) Reliable, if maverick, understudy during two spells and became a cult hero. Was in goal when Ferguson won his first trophy at United – the 1990 FA Cup. Died of a heart attack in 2001 at the age of 43.



Kevin Pilkington, appearances 8 (1992-98) Spent most of his time as a third choice.

Raimond van der Gouw, appearances 60 (1996-2002) Ferguson toyed with the idea of using Van der Gouw as his first choice after Bosnich failed but the Dutchman was really just a stand-in.



Massimo Taibi, appearances 4 (1999-2000) Cost £4.5m but was dubbed "The Blind Venetian" after allowing a Matt Le Tissier daisycutter to bobble in.



Fabian Barthez, appearances 139 (2000-04) A World Cup winning goalkeeper who helped United to two titles but a series of errors – notably against Arsenal – finally saw Ferguson's patience in the Frenchman run out.



Andy Goram, appearances 2 (2001) Controversial former Scotland keeper who helped out in the 2001 title run-in.



Roy Carroll, appearances 72 (2001-05)

Pedro Mendes' goal-that-never-was for Spurs defined Carroll's time as he made a string of blunders, including a spill in 2005 that saw Hernan Crespo seal a 1-0 victory for Milan at Old Trafford.



Ricardo, appearances 5 (2002-05) The Spaniard conceded a penalty with his first touch on his league debut against Blackburn. Went on to save it but that was his only appearance in the league.



Tim Howard, appearances 77 (2003-07) The American replaced Barthez but a series of errors, especially in the Champions League, saw him move on to Everton where he has gone on to prove himself a solid keeper.



Ben Foster, appearances 23 (2005-10) Touted as England's No 1 but struggled to adapt to life with United, not helped by injuries. Moved to Birmingham last year.



Tomasz Kuszczak, appearances 61 (2006-present) Understudy to Van der Sar but the Pole does not look to have a long-term future at the club.

Words: Steven Slayford

Comments