5 Minutes with… Edwin van der Sar

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We waited six years for Edwin van der Sar.

I’m a Manchester United fan. One of the Manchester United fans who waited six years for a suitable replacement for the club’s greatest goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel.

That was Edwin van der Sar. He signed on a two-year contract and ended up staying for six, the highlight of his United tenure perhaps this Champions League Final shootout save in 2008.

He retired three years later at the age of 40 and still at the top of his game having added a fourth Premier League title to his trophy cabinet.

Currently Marketing Director at Ajax, Edwin is coming to Dublin for Sport Summit.

Ahead of his talk, he told me about how he managed to save that penalty, whether he ever imagined achieving such success at United, and who would play him in the film of his life.

He couldn’t pick the most talented teammate of his career, though…

Edwin, when you moved to Manchester United at the age of 35, did you envision staying for six years and enjoying such success? 

I signed for two years with the idea to end my career at United. I knew that I had joined one of the biggest clubs in the world and I was ambitious – I felt like I was still at my best.

Yes of course I went there to win trophies – I knew there was a fair chance I’d be successful.

But I didn’t see myself staying so long and being as successful as I was.

Having left football as the most decorated goalkeeper of all time, was it tough to start in a new field as Marketing Director of Ajax?

First of all, it was tough to stop in general. But with the help of my wife and children, I felt like I had started a new life – a good one, too.

Spending quality time together is important for all of us, but I’m not the kind of person who enjoys a life doing nothing but playing golf.

At first, it was challenging to balance Ajax and family life. I wanted to see my son and daughter when they were playing football and hockey, and I wanted to spend time with my wife and work on our foundation

The number of meetings were tough in the beginning, but I found my way and learned a lot. Everything became more interesting to me.


Zinedine Zidane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Clarence Seedorf and Dennis Bergkamp are just a small group of the greats you’ve played with. Who’s the best player you’ve lined out with?

Mentioning one is too hard for me and I don’t like to try that because I have so much respect for all the players I’ve played with.  I’ve been lucky to play with so many world class players.

In the 2008 Champions League Final, you can be seen pointing to the right side of your goal, as if to suggest Nicolas Anelka was about to shoot there. He ended up going left, and you saved the penalty. How confident were you that Anelka would shoot there, and what made you guess that direction?

I am not going to tell a sensational story. That was seven years ago, so I don’t remember every single detail.

But what I do know is that I felt like it was time to stand up.  I was confident I would save. I think it was a combination of experience and the desire to win: to win for the club and its fans.

Years later I have been told that before the final Chelsea analysed all the penalties I faced in my career. That’s unusual. Usually teams analyse the penalty takers.


If the Edwin van der Sar biopic was ever made, who’d play the lead role?

Is it an idea to ask my son, Joe? He plays for the Ajax U18s and he’s a goalkeeper as well.


Join Edwin at Web Summit. Get your ticket.

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