Anders Lindegaard is not short on self-confidence. In January the well-built, combative Dane told
reporters that he hadn’t joined United to “pick my nose.” That was before Lindegaard realized he was the only goalkeeper in Premier League history never to have conceded a goal.
The six-foot-four-inch keeper cultivates an aura of invincibility. “Calmfidence – 6” Lindegaard tweeted on Boxing Day. Lindegaard’s Twitter account provides a window into his personality. His 65,279 followers are willing to tolerate his unyielding arrogance. Anders Lindegaard does what he wants.
He started the season as the clear understudy to United’s big-money goalie, David De Gea, who is meek and skinny where Lindegaard is boastful and broad. But since then the hierarchy has blurred.
Lindegaard has transmitted his off-field swagger to the Manchester United penalty area; winning over fans with his commanding direction and hot temper. The anemic De Gea is sporadically brilliant but has failed to live-up to pre-season expectations.
Lindegaard’s natural aggression seems to have won Ferguson over. The Dane’s bossiness has trumped everything that De Gea has to offer.
“In ten matches nobody will remember any of the saves, they will remember the statistics,” Lindegaard said in an interview with MUTV. “I hope I’m giving the manager a problem.”
From the moment that Van Der Sar’s retirement was confirmed, Ferguson has maintained that he is looking for a long-term answer in goal, rather than a series of mediocre stopgaps. De Gea’s pre-season claim to that role has been complicated by Lindegaard’s ascendance. Manchester United are now hosting a proper goalkeeping tussle – two relatively high-profile contestants vying for supremacy.
Whether such a conflict is good for the team is debatable. This year is likely to be Rio Ferdinand’s last at the top level and the back four that broke records in 2009 is slowly dissolving. Any doubt over the number-one jersey might exacerbate an unavoidable problem.
For decades steadiness in goal has been the cornerstone of United’s success. Ferguson’s blip in the mid-2000s came during a period of defensive doubt; an in between stage that saw players like Tim Howard, Fabien Barthez and Massimmo Taibi enter and exit Old Trafford. United’s twelve Premier League titles are bookended by goalkeeping greats.
This year looks likely to shape-up differently.
The confusion in goal is symptomatic of United’s recent defensive transformation. The departures of John O’Shea and Wes Brown over the summer hinted at Ferguson’s willingness to shake-up United’s rearguard. Since then injuries have forced an even more extensive reshuffle.
Nemanja Vidic is out for the season, and the Da Silva twins still suffer continual, niggling injuries. Ferguson has had to adapt more drastically than he originally planned.
Lindegaard’s pugnacious stance, coupled with De Gea’s shakiness, has spawned a new dilemma. On the one hand Ferguson is faced with a question of loyalty – dropping De Gea might do irreversible damage to his confidence and cancel out any advancements he has made over his spell in England. The short-term, though, is the more pressing. Manchester United can’t afford to be hampered by goalkeeping deficiencies, and are lucky that they have faced bottom-half opposition for the past couple of weeks. Once the big games roll back in, a firm decision will have to be made.
Ferguson needn’t be worried about offending Lindegaard.
Just days before Lindegaard’s official arrival Denmark and Manchester United legend Peter Schemeichel publicly denounced him, questioning the former Aaslund keeper’s maturity. Lindegaard quickly brushed away those slights. He is rarely troubled by the opinions of others – even when those others are influential countrymen.
For all his egomania, Lindegaard seems to have struck a balance between the on-field arrogance necessary for goalkeeping success and and the off-field humility required for steady improvement.
Manchester United goalkeeping coach Eric Steele was quick to identify the inaccuracies that littered Lindegaard’s previous twenty years of footballing education. Lindegaard accepted his criticism with renewed determination.
“He taught me from the beginning again,” Lindegaard said earlier this month. “I was 26 and thrilled to sign for Manchester United and I would do anything to make my dream come true.”
With two impressive clean sheets in his last two games, Lindegaard is getting closer to fulfilling those dreams. His stock at United has never been higher, and Danish national team coach Morten Olson is paying attention.
“It goes without saying that a goalkeeper who is in a big club which has the money to get the best players in the world is guaranteed to have a higher level,” Olson said.
“But everything depends on the performance on the pitch. It is not enough just to be part of a big club, perhaps better to be always playing at another club.”
Lindegaard wants to be playing every week by the end of this season. He does not, however, intend to leave Old Trafford.
He may be an arrogant so-and-so, but his ability is indisputable. After initial struggles, he has improved his distribution, and the presence he brings to the penalty area is reminiscent of Peter Schmeichel in his pomp. Not that Lindegaard would encourage suggestions that he looks-up to Schmeichel. Lindegaard always does things differently. His goalkeeping hero is former Barnsley and Gillingham stopper David Preece.