Manchester United's Greatest: Goalkeepers

When you look are some of the most successful teams in the history of this beautiful game, they all have one thing in common, that is they have a top-draw goalkeeper. Manchester United are no different, having had some of the greatest goalkeepers ever to play the game.

When you are building a successful team, the goalkeeper position should be one of your top priorities. A world-class goalkeeper can earn you just as points as a world-class centre forward.

They are your last line of defence, a world-class goalkeeper can make saves that are out of this world and have you thinking how did he save that?

Not only that the best goalkeepers can also be used in an attacking sense by starting off attacks on the opposition, by the getting the ball out to the attacking players in his team as quick as possible.

Harry Gregg

Harry Gregg was a Northern Ireland international, making 25 appearances for his country. Gregg was voted the best goalkeeper at the 1958 World Cup, where he helped Northern Ireland reach the quarter-finals.

Gregg arrived at Old Trafford from Doncaster Rovers in December 1957 for a fee of £23,000, a world record fee for a goalkeeper at the time. He made 247 appearances for United, keeping 48 clean sheets.

Though he never won a medal at Old Trafford, Gregg is regarded by many as one of the greatest goalkeepers Manchester United have ever had.

Gregg is remembered by many as “The Hero Of Munich”, having pulled many of his team-mates out of the burning plane during the Munich air disaster. Those team-mates included Bobby Charlton, Jackie Blanchflower and Dennis Viollet.

Gregg, along with Bill Foulkes, Bobby Charlton and Dennis Viollet played in a patched up United team that reached the 1958 FA Cup Final.

Sadly though, United lost the game 2-0 to Bolton Wanderers.

Injury would prevent Gregg from winning medals as he missed the 1963 FA Cup Final and didn’t play enough games as United won the league championship in the 1964/65 and 1966/67 seasons.

Alex Stepney

Stepney joined Manchester United in August 1966 from Chelsea for a then record fee of £55,000 despite having only joined Chelsea three months earlier. He would go on to make 539 appearances in the Manchester United goal.

He is currently sixth on Manchester United’s list of most appearances and has the most appearances for any United goalkeeper.

Stepney was signed as a replacement for Gregg, whose injuries were bringing his career to an end. With Stepney in goal United won Division in his first season, this allowing Manchester United entry into the European Cup, a competition no English had yet won.

Stepney was an ever-present figure as United progressed to the 1968 European Cup final at Wembley, where they would face Benfica. He made a superb close-range save from Benfica superstar Eusebio in the dying minutes, with game at 1-1. The game would go into extra-time, with United eventually winning the game 4-1.

Stepney would remain at Old Trafford until 1978, as he and United struggled to recapture the successes of his early days at United.

Peter Schmeichel

In Sir Alex Ferguson’s early days he had used several goalkeepers as he looked to build a successful team at Old Trafford once again. Schmeichel had impressed for Denmark on the international stage and made the move to Old Trafford in August 1991 for £505,000. A fee later described by Ferguson as “the bargain of the century”.

United finished as runners-up in the league in Schmeichel’s first season with United, the following season would see United winning the league for the first time in 26 years, Schmeichel played a pivotal part in this as he kept 22 clean sheets. After helping United win the league he was named the best goalkeeper in the world in 1993.

Schmeichel would remain at United until the end of the 1998/99 season, helping United to win numerous domestic trophies. United would win the league a further four times and included two doubles they won both the league and the FA Cup in the 1993/94 and 1995/96 seasons.

The one trophy that had eluded United and Schmeichel was the European Cup. That was until Schmeichel’s final season at Old Trafford. Schmeichel announced in December 1998 that he would be leaving United at the end of the 1998/99 season. Schmeichel went out on the highest point possible as United completed the treble by winning the European Cup with a 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich at the Nou Camp.

Schmeichel’s final act as Manchester United goalkeeper was to lift the famous European Cup alongside his manager.

Edwin van der Sar

Ferguson struggled to replace Schmeichel, that was until they signed Dutchman Edwin van der Sar. He arrived at Old Trafford from fellow Premier League side Fulham in June 2005, for a fee believed to around £2million.

In fact Ferguson had to sign Van Der Sar from Ajax when Schmeichel left the club in the 1999 but Van Der Sar had already agreed to join Italian side Juventus.

Van Der Sar’s time at Old Trafford can be regarded as one of the most successful in the club’s history. During his six seasons with United, he helped the club win four Premier League titles, two League Cup triumphs, a European Cup win and a FIFA Club World Cup win.

In the 2008/09 season Van Der Sar set a world record for clean sheets in a league competition. As he went 1,311 minutes without conceding a goal in the Premier League. In recognition of this Van Der Sar was named as the UEFA club goalkeeper of the year in 2009. Van Der Sar was also one of five players nominated for the PFA Player of the Year award in the 2008/09 season and named in the PFA Team of the Year.