In part two of this interview with United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, the Dutchman pays tribute to his team-mates’ performances throughout the season and reveals the strength of the Reds’ team-spirit…
Who was your United Player of the Year?
I voted for Cristiano [Ronaldo] and he deserves it. He has had such a great season, scoring so many goals from the midfield, so many important goals… how can it go to someone else? Yet were it not for Ronaldo, it could have gone to Rio [Ferdinand] or Vida [Nemanja Vidic]. They have done so well for us this season, Rio especially. And as a defence we also had so much success because of the contribution of Wes [Brown], filling in at right-back for Gary [Neville] all season, and Patrice [Evra] on the other side. If I could have voted for those five players then I would have – they’ve all been fantastic.
United’s 22 goals conceded was a record low which must make you proud…
Defensive records are not a major thing unless you win something at the end. In the two years I was at Juventus we had the best defensive record in Serie A, but we didn’t win the league in either campaign, so it didn’t mean a thing. If we had lost the title on the last day then our great record wouldn’t have added up to much either. I couldn’t have celebrated it. But when they bring you silverware, it is special. We have a lot of quality in the [defensive] department and for the first eight months of the season the back four hardly changed – always it was Wes, Rio, Vida and Patrice. The more you play, the more familiar you get.
How important was it that the back four barely changed throughout the season?
The understanding just grows all the time. And even when we did have to change and they did have to drop out of the side with injury, the players coming in, like John O’Shea, Owen [Hargreaves], Gerard [Piqué] and Mikael [Silvestre], all did very well for us. The club normally has an attacking side – it’s what we’re famous for – but this season we’ve had a defence to help grind out the results we’ve needed from certain games. You can’t always go out and play exciting football because sometimes that suits the opposition. The Barcelona games were like that. We played a style to get the result we wanted so much. So as a defence we have done well this season, but that is because others in the team have been working hard to help us. Likewise, the forwards score because the defence gives them a sound base: it is a team thing and it is a great team.