friends over in Manchester, so it was good to be back.
How did you come to join Ajax?
I was 18 and still playing for my local club in the village I live in now. Louis van Gaal was one of the junior team coaches at Ajax and he was playing cards with the coach of my team, and my coach told Louis that he had a very good goalkeeper who he might want to have a look at. I think Louis watched one game and I was invited for some training sessions with Ajax. I played one game and signed a professional contract as their third goalkeeper. I was 19 at the time so I was quite late. I was never a big talent who everybody expected to make a big career.
You made up for it at the other end of your career…
Yeah, I went on until I was 40. I had to make it a little bit longer because I missed three or four years that Giggsy had when I was in my teens!
What similarities are there between Ajax and United as clubs?
It’s the implementation of young players that you have educated, nurtured and brought through. At Ajax it happens quicker because the league isn’t as strong. At United you look at Danny Welbeck or Tom Cleverley, those guys have been at the club for a long time – Danny played his first game over three years ago – and have been loaned out to lower league teams, come back to United, gone on loan to Premier League teams for a year and then they have gained enough experience to try to win a place among the manager’s squads. It takes a bit longer with United and there’s less pressure on you to be there straight away. At Ajax you have to be there straight away and be good. If, after two or three games, you start playing badly then it’s hard to get that next step to a higher level. At United you have more time to develop.
What does it say about the two clubs that lots of ex-players – like yourself – stay on as coaches or ambassadors after they’ve retired?
I trained a couple of times with Ajax under-20s a few weeks ago, and I saw so many players I played with who are there. Dennis Bergkamp is a big part of the youth